Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person: NY Does Not Require an Intent to Injure

Recently, a Queens County Criminal Court Judge in People v. Gloria Johnson-Noble, 2008QN038495, denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss the criminal charge of Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person. Through her criminal defense attorney, the defendant, a certified nurses assistant, had argued that although the accusatory instrument set forth that she struck an 86 year old woman with dementia on her arm and face, she did not have the intent to injure her.

According to NY Penal Law 、260.25, a person is guilty of Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person when he knowingly acts in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a person who is unable to care for himself or herself because of physical disability, mental disease or defect.

In denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss, the Court stated:

“Here, the information charging defendant with endangering the welfare of an incompetent person contains non-hearsay allegations to the effect that the victim was an 86 year old woman suffering from senile dementia, that she was incapable of caring for herself and that defendant slapped her on her face. These allegations establish, if true, that defendant knew that her actions were likely to be injurious to the victim who was ‘unable to care for himself or herself because of physical disability, mental disease, or defect.’ (PL 、260.25; People v. Rolston, 190 AD2d 1000 [4th Dept 1993]; People v. Biamonte, 19 Misc3d 139A [App Term 9th & 10th Jud Dists 2008].)

Clearly, according to this Queens County Criminal Court Judge, it does not matter whether or not the defendant intended on injuring the complainant, but that she knew that her actions would cause an injury. At bottom, what this particular judge has found is that the mental element (a part of every crime) is lowered in conjunction with this offense. You do not need to have the intent, i.e., purpose to cause injury. Instead if it is not your intent to injure, but your actions will or may cause injury, then the mental element of this particular crime may be satisfied.

As I have mentioned multiple times before, a failure of a criminal defense attorney’s motion to dismiss does not put an end to your criminal defense. While the complaint against this particular defendant may be “facially sufficient” for the prosecution to proceed, the prosecution still must meet a higher burden, proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt, at trial. At that point your criminal defense attorney can further challenge the prosecution, cross-examine witnesses and present evidence on your behalf. While we cannot speak on the merits of this particular defendant’s case and what was done for her defense, every case needs a skilled and thorough examination of the evidence in order to construct and implement the best defense. The attorneys at Crotty Saland PC have not only done this countless times, but stand ready to assist you in your time of need as well.

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