Articles Posted in Assault

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Prosecutors routinely (for better or worse) throw every charge they can at a defendant with the hope that something sticks. Maybe the evidence is overwhelming.  Maybe…not so much. Whatever the charges or allegations may, if one count cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, maybe another can. It is one thing for a prosecutor to charge different crimes (for example, charging an individual for possessing a weapon and using it or stealing money and possessing the same). However, can prosecutors charge different theories of one’s mental state? More specifically, can a defendant be charged with both intentional and reckless acts in the same complaint, for the same act?  In People v. Alejo, NYLJ 1202644557857 (Crim., BX, Decided February 19, 2014), the Supreme Court answered that question with a resounding “yes.”

The evidence in Alejo case established that Police Officer Gelband observed the defendant, who was driving a motor bike, weaving in and out of traffic and around pedestrians, driving the wrong way, and ignoring stop signs.  The facts also showed that pedestrians ceased walking on the street whenever the defendant drove near them.  Finally, when the officer instructed the defendant to stop driving, the defendant ran over the officer’s foot causing injury to his foot, as well as causing the officer to experience annoyance, alarm and fear.  As a result of his actions, defendant was charged with two counts of Assault in the Third Degree (PL Sec. 120.00(1) and (2)), and one count each of Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree (PL Sec. 120.20), Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree (PL Sec. 265.01(2)), Harassment in the Second Degree (PL Sec. 240.26(1)), and Disorderly Conduct (PL Sec. 240.20(7)).

The focus of this court started with the statutory definition of each charge:

  1. Assault in the Third Degree in violation of PL Sec. 120.00(1), which states that “(w)ith intent to cause physical injury to another person, [defendant] causes such injury to such person”;
  2. Assault in the Third Degree in violation of PL Sec. 120.00(2), which states that “[defendant] recklessly causes physical injury to another person”;
  3.  Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree, which requires that a defendant “recklessly engage(s) in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person”;
  4. Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree states that “[defendant] possesses…any other dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon with intent to use the same unlawfully against another”;
  5. Harassment in the Second Degree states “with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person…(1) [defendant] strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects such other person to physical contact”; and
  6. Disorderly Conduct states that a defendant “recklessly creating a risk thereof…(7)…creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose

(emphasis added in all).

The defendant brought a motion to dismiss all charges on the ground that the complaint was improper due to the conflicting mental states of intent and recklessness based on the same underlying conduct.  Essentially, defendant argued that one who acts intentionally, cannot at the same time act recklessly (People v. Gallagher, 69 N.Y.2d 525 (1987)).  Here, the Court disagreed.

The Court, in its decision, wrote that defendants may be charged with crimes of intent and recklessness; however, after the facts are presented to the jury, “only charges supporting either reckless or intention mental state may be submitted to the jury for their consideration – not both.”  With that being said, there is evidence to support a view that the act of running over the police officer’s foot after being directed to stop was intentional. However, there is another equally viable view that such an act was reckless, particularly if there was evidence presented that the Defendant did not hear the directive to stop.

Therefore, the court held that the complaint was proper as the facts of the case were sufficient to the allegations.  Thus, the decision regarding what charges will be submitted to the jury should be left to the trial court, after a proper hearing.

To educate yourself on the New York Penal Law and the potential criminal charges that you may face, go directly to CrottySaland.Com or follow any of the links provided here.

Established by former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney’s the former Manhattan and Federal prosecutors and New York criminal lawyers at Crotty Saland PC represent clients in all criminal matters in the City, State and Federal Courts located in and around the New York City region.

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Every New York criminal lawyer, from the “best” to the those who lag behind him or her, have one basic goal when representing their respective clients in an arrest for any crime. Certainly service is key, but most clients would be satisfied, if not elated, if his or her criminal attorney could obtained a dismissal of an indictment or misdemeanor information regardless of the service the attorney provided (I am not advocating poor service!). There are often numerous grounds for which a New York criminal defense attorney may seek dismissal. The Grand Jury presentation was not sufficient or the proceeding was tainted. Alternatively, the information or complaint contained hearsay or was not facially sufficient. If the case cannot be dismissed in its totality, the defense may seek to have the crime charged reduced to an attempt. The reason this is pursued is because an attempt to commit a particular crime in New York reduces the level or degree of the crime from what it would be if successfully completed.

In People v. Zacatenco-Romano, 10869-12, NYLJ 1202640266754, at *1 (Sup., KI, Decided January 22, 2014), the defendant motioned for dismissal of Attempted Assault in the First Degree (PL 110/120.10[1]) on the grounds that the Grand Jury evidence was insufficient. Seeking a dismissal as opposed to a reduction (you can’t attempt an a crime that you are accused of attempting), Zacatenco-Romano is still valuable in identifying what constitutes an attempt to commit an offense and what is sufficient before a Grand Jury in New York.

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Harassment in the Second Degree, New York Penal Law 240.26, is routinely an offense that is tacked onto a complaint alleging Third Degree Assault. While Assault in the Third Degree (New York Penal Law 120.00) is one of the most serious misdemeanor crimes, Harassment in the Second Degree has significant consequences, but is far less significant. Having said that, “less” significant” does not mean “insignificant.” In fact, a conviction for violating NY PL 240.26 not only carries a possible jail sentence, but on the more practical side of things there are sealing issues that permit this offense to linger on your “criminal record” for employers and government agencies to later see.

Briefly, you are guilty of Harassment in the Second Degree when you intentionally harass, annoy or alarm another person and you (1) strike, shove, kick or otherwise subject that person to physical contact or threaten to do the same. Alternatively, you (2) follow that person around public places or (3) you engage in a course of conduct or repeatedly commit acts that alarm or annoy that other person without any legitimate purpose. The purpose and issue that will be addressed in this blog entry is what kind of contact constitutes a violation of the first subsection of New York Penal Law 240.26(1), Harassment in the Second Degree?

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One of the most common questions that arise in the practice of New York criminal law from the perspective of both a prosecutor (Assistant District Attorney) and a criminal defense attorney or lawyer is when an assault is an Assault (note the big scary capitalization of the word). That’s right. When does an accused’s conduct go from noncriminal in nature to actions that are legally sufficient to establish the crime of Assault in the Third Degree?

Is a slap different than a closed fist punch in the eyes of the New York Penal Law? What about a shove, kick or pinch? Do any of these constitute a misdemeanor offense punishable by as much as a year in jail? At what point has your conduct and resulting injury reached the level of New York Penal Law 120.00, Assault in the Third Degree? Generally speaking, you are guilty of NY PL 120.00(1) if and when you intentionally cause physical injury to another person, but how far are courts willing to go under pressure by Assistant District Attorney’s to prosecute those they believed have committed a crime?

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Everyone is scared of guns. After all, some horrific incidents have corroborated why many lawmakers in New York believe the strict firearm laws of the New York Penal Law are necessary. While there is little doubt that firearms in the wrong hands are overwhelmingly dangerous and laws must be enacted and enforced to protect the public and prevent the misuse of weapons, a blanket fear of firearms does not necessitate over zealous prosecutions. Just as the owner of a lawfully registered out of state firearm can be charged with a felony for attempting to legally check his weapon at a NYC airport (JFK Airport, for example), other individuals may be charged with weapon crimes that really are not consistent with the hyper-technical conduct of the accused.

In People v. Evans, 2013 NY Slip Op 1950 – NY: Appellate Div., 4th Dept. 2013, a judge convicted the defendant for Assault in the Second Degree where the crime was based in the reckless possession of a weapon. There, the gun in question was a saw offed shotgun that accidentally misfired and struck another person. Pursuant to New York Penal Law 120.05(4), it is punishable by as much as a seven years in prison if you “recklessly causes serious physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument.” The question before the Appellate Court was not whether the possession of the weapon in and of itself was illegal, but whether or not it was used in a reckless manner resulting in the serious physical injury.

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You slap someone in the face. Certainly its not nice, but is it a Third Degree Assault in New York? You punch someone in the gut. Again…not nice…but is it an Assault in the Third Degree? You kick someone in the ribs (maybe they deserved it and you were merely defending yourself this time!). Ouch….but should you be arrested for violating New York Penal Law 120.00(1)? An “A” misdemeanor that will smack you with a lifelong criminal record, while you may need a criminal lawyer to counsel you through the criminal process in New York, you certainly don’t need a criminal defense attorney to tell you that an arrest for PL 120.00 is potentially a life changing matter.

Whether you are issued a New York City Desk Appearance Ticket (commonly called a DAT or an appearance ticket) for PL 120.00 or you spend 24 hours waiting in jail to see a judge, the law of Third Degree Assault is fairly straight forward on its face. That is, if you intentionally (there is also a reckless provision) cause physical injury to another person, you are guilty of misdemeanor Assault. Seems fairly easy for a prosecutor to prove, right? While it certainly may be fairly simple for a New York City (or any jurisdiction for that matter) Assistant District Attorney to establish in a complaint or prove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial, not everything is as easy as it seems.

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Since the New York State legislature created new violations of the Penal Law and criminal code involving Strangulation and Related Crimes, prosecutors throughout New York City and the suburbs have been bringing these cases at very serious clips. It seems that any time there is allegation of one party grabbing, pushing or even touching the neck area of another person, prosecutors charge either the misdemeanor crime of Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation (New York Penal Law 121.11) or felony Second Degree Strangulation (New York Penal Law 121.12). While Strangulation is a more serious offense than Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation, both crimes (even mere allegations) can destroy the life and career of any professional. Further, because of the nature of the crimes, orders of protections (restraining orders) are routinely granted by criminal court judges that keep families a part. Make no mistake. While these crimes are very real offenses and ones that prosecutors, the NYPD and all branches of law enforcement should take seriously, an accusation or allegation by law enforcement does not mean you actually committed or are guilty of these or any offense.

While this blog entry will generally address the crimes of Obstruction and Strangulation, the entry will briefly analyze a legal decision out of the Appellate Division Fourth Department that addressed a critical distinction between NY PL 121.11 and NY PL 121.12. The reduction of a felony Strangulation in the Second Degree to a misdemeanor Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation can mean the difference between your family visiting you in some upstate correctional facility and you remaining free of any incarceration.

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Any crime that involves a child is often given extra scrutiny by prosecutors, judges and even New York criminal lawyers. Compounding matters, if that crime also includes allegations of Assault and Criminal Possession of a Weapon, there is a real concern for the accused whether or not the complaint is baseless or completely accurate in its totality. Not only are Endangering the Welfare of a Child (New York Penal Law 260.10), Third Degree Assault (New York Penal Law 120.00) and Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon (New York Penal Law 265.01) misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail (Rikers Island or the Westchester County Jail, for example), but where the crime involves a family member, Orders of Protection can bar you from your home and from any contact with your family.

In People v. Jose Barreiro, 2012KN013315, NYLJ 1202576305750, at *1 (Crim., KI, Decided October 18, 2012), the defendant was charged with multiple crimes including those listed above. Whether the purpose of Barreiro’s alleged actions was to ultimately discipline his child or merely to just hurt him, is of potentially little consequence. It was alleged that the defendant struck his twelve year old son with a belt. More specifically, Barreiro struck his son in the legs causing brusing and swelling. The complaint further claimed that these actions caused substantial pain to the child and that the child feared future physical injury.

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New York Assault arrests easily make up the majority of violence related crimes in New York as a singular group of offenses. Whether the crime is a Domestic Violence offense, a bar fight constituting Third Degree Assault, a misdemeanor Desk Appearance Ticket or a more serious Second or First Degree Assault where either a weapon is used or an alleged victim suffered a serious physical injury, Assault crimes expose those accused to potentially long terms of incarceration. Because of this, it is critical for your New York Assault lawyer or criminal defense attorney to identify potential defenses and pursue the same as soon as he or she is retained. After all, witnesses may forget what happened, defensive injuries may heal over time and other evidence may just be lost.

Before addressing the affirmative defense of “self defense,” also called the defense of “justification,” in a New York Assault arrest, I want to briefly address New York Assault law. Generally, the basic idea or concept of a New York Assault case is that you intentionally (there are reckless crimes as well) cause physical injury to another person. These actions are the elements of Assault in the Third Degree (New York Penal Law 120.00). What enhances the misdemeanor offense to the felony crimes of Second Degree Assault (New York Penal Law 120.05) or First Degree Assault (New York Penal Law 120.10) are such factors as the nature of an injury being classified as “serious physical injury” or the use of a dangerous instrument or weapon during the crime.

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New York Domestic Violence crimes are some of the most serious offenses found anywhere in the criminal law (and rightfully so). Well beyond allegations of Assault, these crimes cover a wide spectrum of conduct. Regardless of the offense charged, the significance of a New York Domestic Violence arrest or accusations is evident in its handling by the branches of law enforcement. For example, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has specially trained Domestic Violence officers that work in their respective precincts directly with those who are victims of Domestic Violence crimes. In the City’s District Attorney’s Offices (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, etc.), prosecutors are either specially trained to manage Domestic Violence cases or they may be assigned to a Domestic Violence unit.

As important as it is for law enforcement to investigate, arrest and prosecute offenders of abuse, an allegation against a “family member” does not mean the believed crime actually occurred. As much as we are all quick to judge what we may read in the news and assume that an accused is a batterer of a spouse, child, etc., it is imperative to recognize one is innocent until proven otherwise. Regardless of the crime, sometimes it takes your wrongful arrest or a false accusation against a family member before this principle hits home.

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