Aggravated Harassment NY PL 240.30: All Speech, Threats and Statements are Not Equal

Second Degree Aggravated Harassment in New York, pursuant to New York Penal Law 240.30, is a crime that is always immersed in a pool of many questions. Sometimes the conduct clearly establishes the foundation for an arrest while other times your criminal lawyer may be left scratching his or her head and asking, “Really?!?! You’re arresting my client and charging him with Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree for what?!?!” As I have said to my clients many times, because of the hypersensitivity around PL 240.30, police officers often make an arrest and leave it up to prosecutors to later sort out. Whether this is right or wrong (it certainly is wrong if the claim is fraudulent or exaggerated for the gain of the accuser), the unfortunately reality is that you will have to “earn” your offer or dismissal. Further, if the accusation is from a partner, lover, spouse or family member and is deemed “domestic,” you will be arrested for Second Degree Aggravated Harassment and you will not be able to avail yourself of a Desk Appearance Ticket.

There are multiple ways an accused can “earn” the proper disposition of a case. No prosecutor is merely going to give you and your criminal lawyer a handout. Obviously, one way you could fight an NY PL 240.30 arrest is to attempt to mitigate your conduct. Another route, and very likely the first attack, is to work alongside your criminal attorney to ascertain if the allegations, even if true, legally satisfy the elements of Second Degree Aggravated Harassment. When doing so, it is critical to examine the words used and the context of those words. The following two New York Criminal Court cases shed light on potential defenses and overall requirements of a New York PL 240.30 arrest that should be added to your defensive arsenal when words alone and their usage form the basis of a Second Degree Aggravated Harassment case.

In People v. Lurk, 2013 NY Slip Op 52061(U), a defendant pleaded to Disorderly Conduct after being charged with crimes including Aggravated Harassment, PL 240.30. It was alleged that the accused sent a text to the complainant asserting, “what you find funny, I do not find funny, I will have the last laugh, you wait and see.” In ultimately dismissing the case after the legal review, the court noted that the “defendant’s single text message could not reasonably be construed as an unequivocal and specific threat and, therefore, as the People concede, it did not rise to the level of criminally sanctionable speech or conduct (see People v Shack, 86 NY2d 529, 539 [1995]; People v Smith, 89 Misc 2d 789, 791-792 [App Term, 2d & 11th Jud Dists 1977]; see generally People v Mangano, 100 NY2d 569, 571 [2003]). ”

Coming down on the opposite side of the law, People v. Green, 2013 NY Slip Op 51863(U), is also worth your review and that of your criminal attorney. There, unlike a general non-specific statement in Lurk, the defendant made one call to the complainant threatening to kill that complainant by slitting her throat. These words not only lacked a “legitimate purpose,’ but also were the kind of words that would likely cause reasonable fear of material harm and safety. (see Penal Law 240.30[1]); People v Thomas, 58 AD3d 445, 446 [2009], lv denied 12 NY3d 788 [2009]).

Remember, words and their interpretation and use are often critical pieces to an Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree accusation. Depending on the subsection of the crime charged (this is also an important piece of the puzzle), how many contacts and the nature or words used in those contacts can have a real outcome on the legal viability of an arrest for PL 240.30. Is there grounds for dismissal? Can your criminal lawyer draft a motion to dismiss? Is your speech protected or does it go beyond? Vetting your case and reviewing the applicable decisions is something that you cannot fail to do should your contact fall within the potential grey area of these crimes.

To learn about Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, New York Penal Law 240.30, follow the links above or review the abundance of content on the NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com by searching the applicable statute or terms.

New York criminal lawyers representing clients in Aggravated Harassment crimes and related allegations, the founding criminal attorneys at Crotty Saland PC served as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office prior to establishing the law firm.

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