Facial Insufficiency & Dismissal: When NY Criminal Complaints Charging Reckless Endangerment & Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation Meet the Minimum Legal Standard

Facial Sufficiency is a vital consideration in the field of Criminal Law (one of many, of course). If a misdemeanor information (some people call it a complaint) is facially insufficient then the misdemeanor information is considered jurisdictionally defective and should be dismissed. In order for a misdemeanor information to be facially sufficient the misdemeanor information must, when viewed in a light most favorable to the People (the District Attorney or prosecution), contain non-hearsay factual allegations providing reasonable cause to believe that the defendant committed the offense(s) charged; and which establish, if true, every element of the offense(s) charged. CPL §§100.15[3]; 100.40[1][b] and [c].

In the case of People v. Fagan, the defendant was accused of climbing on a bridge support on the Queensboro Bridge. The defendant also allegedly climbed roughly 100 feet above the roadway without permission or authority.  During his interaction with police the defendant stated “I enjoy climbing things. I enjoy going places I’m not supposed to be. It’s fairly easy to go to to the top of the bridge. I didn’t see any sign that said ‘No Trespassing.’ I was walking down the pathway so I decided to climb the bridge. I thought about it for a couple of weeks.” Mr. Fagan was charged with Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree, Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree, and a violation of the NYC Administrative Code section 10-167(b)(ii).

Related to the charge of Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree the court found that the accusatory instrument supported the charge of Reckless Endangerment because the information alleged that he was climbing a bridge support approximately one hundred feet above the roadway where vehicles were traveling across the bridge. If the allegations were true the defendant’s conduct could have created a substantial risk of serious injury to other people and therefore the Reckless Endangerment charge on the misdemeanor information was facially sufficient. The court also found that the state had alleged sufficient facts to prove that the defendant, Fagan, had violated Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree and a violation of the NYC Administrative Code Section 10-167(b)(ii).

In the second case the defendant, Christin Ruben, was charged with five different crimes. The charged crimes were Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation [PL 121.11]; Endangering the Welfare of a Child [PL 260.10]; Attempted Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation [PL 110/121.11]; Disorderly Conduct [PL 240.20]; and Harassment in the Second Degree [PL 240.26]. The defendant’s counsel moved for dismissal of the accusatory instrument on speedy trial and facial insufficiency grounds. The defendant argued that the complaint was facially insufficient without the corroboration of the defendant’s niece.

The court began its analysis by recounting the requirements for the prosecution to prove that the defendant committed the crime of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation. In order for the prosecution to prove this charge they must prove that there was (1) pressure on the throat or neck of a person, or to block the nose or mouth of a person, and (2) the intent to ‘impede the normal breathing or circulation of the blood’ of that person. The court found that the complaint was facially sufficient relying on the observations of the police officers that were included in the complaint.

The next element to be analyzed was the charge of disorderly conduct. A person is guilty of the violation of disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof: (1) he engages in fighting or in threatening, violent or tumultuous behavior;…” The complaint in this case alleged that the police officer observed the defendant and Destiny Eldridge in a physical altercation. The court ruled that the complaint was sufficient regarding this charge because there were allegations that this conduct took place on a public roadway and corroboration from Destiny Eldridge is not necessary.

The final charge of harassment in the second degree reads: “A person is guilty of harassment in the second degree when, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person: (1) he or she strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects such other person to physical contact, or attempts to threaten to do the same;…” The complaint in this case read that the police officer observed the defendant place his hand around Destiny Eldridge’s neck and apply pressure causing Destiny Eldridge to be unable to breathe. These facts as alleged were facially sufficient for the court to dismiss the defense attorney’s motion.

Whether or not your case can be challenged for legal insufficiency is a determination that your New York criminal lawyer or New York City criminal defense attorney will make when reviewing the misdemeanor information filed against you in criminal court. To learn about this procedure as well as the crimes of Second Degree Reckless Endangerment, Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation or Endangering the Welfare of a Child, either follow the respective links for Crotty Saland PC materials on the subjects or review this blog or the websites listed below.

Crotty Saland PC is New York criminal defense practice serving clients throughout the metropolitan New York City area. The New York criminal lawyers at Crotty Saland PC previously served as prosectors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

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