Extortion in New York State: An Affirmative Defense to NY Penal Law 155.05(2)(e) and 155.40(2)

In an earlier entry relating to Extortion, a subset of Grand Larceny, I identified and differentiated the difference between the Grand Larceny Extortion statutes found in New York Penal Law sections 155.05(2)(e) and 155.40(2). This entry will deal with the criminal defense to the crime of Extortion in NY that is established by statute. Whether this affirmative defense is relevant or applicable to the Grand Larceny and Extortion allegation in your particular case, that is something to identify and asses with your New York criminal defense attorney and Extortion lawyer.

Pursuant to New York Penal Law section 155.15(2):

In any prosecution for larceny by Extortion that is perpetrated by instilling fear in the target of the Extortion that the target or another person will be charged with a criminal offense, it is an affirmative defense that the extorter reasonably believed the alleged charge was accurate. Beyond this belief that the alleged criminal conduct of the extortee, the single purpose of the extorter must solely be to compel the extortee to take “reasonable action to make good the wrong which was the subject of such threatened charge.”

Dissecting this defense, it is critical that an extorter truly and genuinely believe that the crime committed by the extortee be true. Obviously, this will be an issue of fact. Additionally, even if the belief is true and even if the extortee actually committed a crime, the only purpose permitted by this defense for the actions of the extorter is to rectify and fix the “wrong” that the extortee allegedly perpetrated. In other words, the extorter cannot utilize the extortee’s criminal act to gain financially in an unrelated matter.

An additional defense to an accusation of Extortion is not found in a statute but is one that the watchful eye of an experienced New York criminal lawyer or Extortion attorney. In the voluminous case law that has evolved around the crime of Grand Larceny by Extortion in New York, the courts have made it overwhelmingly clear that certain terms and words must be set forth in the indictment charging this crime. Unlike common law Grand Larceny where it is sufficient to merely state a Grand Larceny was perpetrated, the prosecution must set forth in an indictment for Grand Larceny by Extortion that the Grand Larceny was in fact not merely a Grand Larceny, but one committed through Extortion. If the prosecution fails to do so, then the indictment should be dismissed.

As a hypothetical, if you stole $5,000 from a woman by taking the money from her account without her permission, the prosecution would not have to set forth with any additional specificity that the crime was anything other than “regular” Grand Larceny in the Third Degree. However, if you stole $5,000 from that same woman by committing the crime of Extortion, the indictment language would have to plead the means by which the theft took place, i.e., Extortion. Although this may seem minor, if the prosecution overlooks this fact your criminal defense attorney should be able to argue that the indictment is not correct or proper. If the indictment is not pleaded properly within its “four corners,” you may be looking at a dismissal. Whether the prosecution can or will re-present to the Grand Jury, you certainly will have at least won one significant battle in your criminal case and re-asssess the next phase of your defense.

For detailed analysis of New York Grand Larceny statutes and the subset of Extortion, follow the highlighted link. A wealth of information is also available on the NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com. For further information on other larceny and theft crimes in New York, Crotty Saland PC will be publishing the NewYorkTheftAndLarcenyLawyersBlog.Com as well as the sister website, NewYorkTheftAndLarcenyLawyers.Com during the month of October, 2011.

Crotty Saland PC is New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors. The New York criminal lawyers at Crotty Saland represent the accused throughout the New York City region.

Updated: