Tampering with Public Records in the First and Second Degrees: A Criminal Defense Primer of New York Penal Sections 175.20 & 175.25

The New York criminal defense attorneys and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC have vast experience both prosecuting and defending individuals accused of white collar crimes. While most of the crimes criminal defense lawyers handle in the white collar arena relate to Grand Larceny type offenses, the scope of white collar crimes in New York State and NYC goes well beyond large thefts. Today, I will address two of these offenses – Tampering with Public Records in the Second Degree (NY Penal Law 175.20) and Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree (NY Penal Law 175.25).

NY Penal Law 175.20, Tampering with Public Records in the Second Degree:

A person is guilty of Tampering with Public Records in the Second Degree when, knowing that he does not have the authority of anyone entitled to grant it, he knowingly removes, mutilates, destroys, conceals, makes a false entry in or falsely alters any record or other written instrument filed with, deposited in, or otherwise constituting a record of a public office or public servant.

Tampering with Public Records in the Second Degree is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

NY Penal Law 175.25, Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree:

A person is guilty of Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree when, knowing that he does not have the authority of anyone entitled to grant it, and with intent to defraud, he knowingly removes, mutilates, destroys, conceals, makes a false entry in or falsely alters any record or other written instrument filed with, deposited in, or otherwise constituting a record of a public office or public servant.

Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree is a class D felony punishable by up to seven years in state prison.

Although you may have missed it, the crucial difference between these two statutes – and facing up to one year in jail or seven years in state prison – hinges on only a few words. Those words are “intent to defraud.” William Donnino states it best:

“The crime is divided into two degrees. The difference between the two degrees is that [T]ampering in the [F]irst [D]egree [、 175.25], unlike [T]ampering in the [S]econd [D]egree [、 175.20], requires an intent to defraud. The seeming intent of the revisers was to distinguish, for example, the culpability of a person who tears up a public record in anger, from the person who calculatingly tampers with a public record as part of a fraudulent scheme.”

Because of the discrepancy between the two offenses as to potential punishment, it may be central to your defense to challenge whether or not you had the “intent to defraud.” Even before that, however, your criminal defense attorney should examine whether the “public record” in question is in fact a “public record” under the law.

If you or a loved one is charged with or being investigated for a white collar crime such as Tampering with Public Records, contact Crotty Saland PC so we can work with you to preserve your rights, liberty and integrity.

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