Coercing Sexual Intercourse: Penal Law 135.61 and the “New” Second Degree Coercion

As of November 2018, New York Coercion laws and crimes have changed. Penal Law 135.61 replaces Penal Law 135.60 as the “new” Second Degree Coercion making the latter statute the Third Degree offense. This class “E” felony adopts much of the language from the lesser misdemeanor but adds a new and critical element that in turn elevates the direct and collateral consequences of an arrest and conviction. Although you should fully examine the law with your attorney to ensure you do not conflate Extortion and Blackmail with any level of this statute, the following provides some basic insight into the definitions, elements and punishment of and for PL 135.61.

If you threaten a person and pressure him or her into acting in a certain manner that he or she could otherwise legally pursue on his or her own or you convince that person not to engage in legal behavior he or she has a right to, then you might be on your way violating the criminal code. More specifically, if your intended purpose is to force the other party into some form of sexual intercourse or legally defined act that is considered anal or oral sexual conduct, then NY PL 135.61’s elements are likely satisfied as long as your compulsion involved one or more of the following:

  • A threat of physical injury such as a black eye, broken finger or even a busted lip
  • Damage to any kind to property whether insignificant or rendering the same useless
  • Accusations of criminal wrongdoing
  • Sharing of a an alleged fact, irrespective of whether it is true or a rumor, that would subject your target to ridicule
  • Behaving in any other way that would be of no benefit to you but is calculated to materially harm your purported victim in his or her business, relationships, health and other areas of life

If convicted of Coercion in the Second Degree, a judge has the ability to send you on a one way all-expense trip upstate for a four year holiday (room service and gratuity included).

Because prosecutors can allege more than one theory, subsection or degree of the same or similar crimes, the change in the law does not mean you are free from other accusations. If, for example, there is a threat of physical injury and that is why a targeted person agrees to sexual intercourse, you may have also violated the First Degree offense, Penal Law 135.65, a class “D” felony. Instead of four years, your prison bid can now extend to seven.

The relevance and importance of this statute is quite clear. Irrespective of the legislature’s reasoning as to why this conduct was criminalized recently as opposed to years ago, forcing sex upon another person under duress, subject to the letter of the law, is now a distinct carve out in the criminal code. With the prospect of other greater sex crime violations set forth in Article 130, the possibility of extensive imprisonment, and being subject to an Order of Protection and Restraining Order, PL 135.61 is far from trifle.

Whether you are a victim or accused of Extortion, Coercion, Stalking or Harassment, learn about the applicable statutes, understand your rights and take the steps you need to protect yourself both in the immediate and long term.

Saland Law PC, a New York criminal law firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, represents clients involved in all aspects and sides of the justice system.

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