While the law is clear and known to criminal lawyers practicing throughout the New York City region, when one thinks of menacing behavior one often thinks of threats with words, body, weapons or some combination of the three. Despite what those outside the legal profession may think, the Penal Law and court decisions that define the crime of Menacing is clear. Words alone are insufficient. More is needed. In a recent decision addressing the sufficiency of Third Degree Menacing, New York Penal Law 120.15, a trial court once again examined the statute providing further clarity to an often litigated section of the Penal Law.
Menacing in the Third Degree, New York Penal Law 120.15, is a B misdemeanor in New York punishable by up to 90 days in jail. “Menacing” refers to a crime in which a person intentionally places another person in fear for their physical safety by “physical menace.” The question then follows, “What is physical menace and how do New York courts interpret the Penal Law with regard to menacing?” The answer seems simple enough (but as your criminal lawyer can attest to, nothing in the New York Penal Law is so simple) – some physical act that is menacing. As generic and easy as that sounds, this leaves a good deal of room for interpretation. If a person calmly reaches into their pocket, it’s certainly a physical act, but is it menacing? The answer will almost always depend on the particular facts and circumstances of a given case.
More than most crimes in New York, Endangering the Welfare of a Child, New York Penal Law 260.10, is a nebulous and vague charge that leaves a great deal of discretion and interpretation in the hands of the prosecutor and the judge. The most commonly invoked section of the Endangering statute in New York is the allegation that the accused person knowingly acted “in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a child.” Not only is this standard difficult to pin down, but it is seemingly subject to the disparate and constantly changing landscape of cultural norms, even between different areas of New York State. Modern psychology leaves no doubt that aggressive and repeated arguments between parents in the presence of a young child can lead to long-lasting psychological trauma, but is a District Attorney going to prosecute two parents criminally for fighting a lot? What about a parent who keeps marijuana for personal use in a desk drawer of their home office? What is enough to rise to level of acts that are likely to harm a child psychologically or “morally?”
I’m looking to buy some Percs, Zanz, Blue Bus or White Girl Study Buddies. Where can I get some Blue Bars, Oxy or something more “exciting” like Ski, Tina or M30? Whether you want to buy or sell Ritalin, Adderall, Xanax, Heroin, Cocaine, Suboxone, Ecstasy, Percocet, Crystal Meth, or just about any other prescription drug, controlled substance or narcotic, Craigslist and other online forums including Reddit can not merely point you in the right direction, but serve as your online pharmacy of substance abuse. As sneaky as Craigslist pharmacists think they may be by placing “no law enforcement” or “I’m not a cop” in their advertisement, the posts are as brazen as they are inviting to law enforcement and prosecutors.
As a criminal defense lawyer representing clients in drug crimes involving unlawful prescription drug sales and possession, its is my duty to represent a client to the fullest of my ability regardless of the accused conduct. After all, the burden always remains on the prosecution to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt. Every accused has due process rights that, regardless of the allegation, must never be violated. However, know that it is not my job to also serve as your parent and give you a proverbial pat on the back. An apologist for illegal conduct I am not. While the best defense is abstaining from using, buying, distributing or selling drugs and controlled substances, knowledge of the New York Penal Law, even after the fact, can assist in identifying and implementing the strongest defense to avoid the full force of New York’s criminal justice system.
A routine and common sentiment heard by New York City Desk Appearance lawyers is that an appearance ticket, aka, DAT, is not a big deal. After all, a DAT is not an arrest and misdemeanor crimes don’t stay on the record, right (wrong!)? So, why worry? Why would you retain or hire a lawyer in New York City for a Desk Appearance Ticket? Better asked, should you get an attorney for an appearance ticket in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx? In one word, “yes.”
While a New York Desk Appearance Ticket may charge a lesser crime, each and every misdemeanor or felony upon a conviction will result in a lifelong public criminal record searchable and reviewable by Homeland Security, any and all immigration authorities, potential creditors, future employers, and just about anyone who does a background check for co-op apartment, medical and professional licensure or merely because they want to dig into your history.
Because criminal convictions in New York are never expunged (they can be sealed pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59 depending on the crime and whether it is ten years old or more), it behooves you to take your DAT seriously. Are you a legal resident or a foreign national with a visa? An attorney admitted to a state’s bar? A college student set to graduate and seek employment? Regardless of who you are or what your background is, taking the steps today to challenge or mitigate your criminal allegations and arrest can save you a lifetime of “I should haves” and “Why didn’t Is.”
I was given a Pink Summons for Disorderly Conduct, is that considered an arrest? A police officer gave me a white Desk Appearance Ticket after being held at Century 21 for shoplifting, was I arrested? Reasonable questions associated with what may be a once in a lifetime mistake, “white tickets” and “pink tickets” are distinct mechanisms to land you, an accused offender, before the criminal courts of New York City. While a pink summons is returnable to 1 Centre Street or 314 West 54th Street for Manhattan infractions, 1 Centre Street for Brooklyn violations and 120-55 Queens Blvd. for Queens offenses, they are quite different than their white Desk Appearance Ticket counterpart. Yes, you might find yourself at Midtown Community Court at 314 West 54th Street along with someone issued a pink summons, but Desk Appearance Tickets, a/k/a, DATs, are generally prosecuted in the criminal courts of 100 Centre Street for Manhattan, 120 Schermerhorn for Brooklyn and 125-01 Queens Blvd. for Queens cases. Although the location you appear is telling, the question remains. Is being issued a New York City summons or DAT considered an arrest?
During summer 2017, a New York man, David Hedeen, was arrested and charged with Criminal Mischief when he vandalized four statues outside of a church in SoHo. The case highlights how seriously New York State and her prosecutors deal with crimes of vandalism. Simply, no statue, or any property of another person, should ever be tampered with or destroyed.
Criminal Mischief charges in New York are separated into four different classifications. Reverend Mario Julian, who is the priest at the church, stated that the damage done equaled close to $10,000. If that turns out to be true, and as now reflected in the indictment, Hedeen faces charges of Second Degree Criminal Mischief. This charge, New York Penal Law 145.10, includes intent to, and actually causing damage that is greater than $1,500. If convicted, Hedeen could face up to seven years in prison on a class “D” felony.
Whether you are at the Electric Zoo Festival on New York’s Randall Island, rolling with Phish at Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden, or you are merely out and about in New York City, Westchester County, Rockland County, or anywhere in the State, if you possess or sell MDMA, Molly or Ecstasy you potentially face an arrest for either a misdemeanor or felony crime. As your criminal lawyer will explain, mere possession of Ecstasy, even one pill, violates New York Penal Law 220.03, Seventh Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance. Depending on the quantity in your possession and whether you have the subjective intent to sell the Ecstasy, you could also face felony crimes including Third Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, New York Penal Law 220.16. Complicating matters, when you actually sell Molly, MDMA or Ecstasy in New York, the crime you face is by default a felony. Assuming the weight of the controlled substance is less than one gram, meaning just one pill, then you would be charged with New York Penal Law 220.31, Fifth Degree Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance. If the weight of the Ecstasy, MDMA or Molly exceeds one gram, then the applicable arrest charge is New York Penal Law 220.39 assuming this sale did not occur on school grounds. This crime is Third Degree Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance. When the weights exceed those here and as outlined in the New York Penal Law, the criminal offenses for criminal possession or sale are significantly more serious.
Because of the above exposure, any arrest, whether by Desk Appearance Ticket or felony complaint, requires immediate and professional attention. Sometimes, investigation and advocacy from the onset of an arrest can provide tremendous benefits as the matter makes its way through the criminal justice system. Fortunately for three recent clients of Crotty Saland PC, despite their arrests for selling Molly to undercover police officers at the Electric Zoo, they took immediate action to retain a criminal lawyer and fight their respective arrests for PL 220.31 head on as they worked their way towards an ultimate dismissal on the merits.
The state of the New York Penal and Criminal Procedure laws as practiced in New York courts is overly restrictive and burdensome. What says you? According to whom? The state of the New York Penal Law and Criminal Procedure Law as practiced in New York courts is overly lenient and broad!
The beauty of asking two different people the same question, especially in New York, is that you will get two different answers. Irrespective of one’s personal view, any spectator or active participant in the criminal justice system will likely tell you that on any given day you can likely see both of these perspectives play out in courtrooms from New York City to Buffalo. Without addressing the validity of the above conclusions or what might happen from day to day, there is one area of law that, right or wrong, that is stacked against the accused. Merit and reasoning aside, law enforcement can charge you, the accused, with the most minimal amount of evidence and corroboration while prosecutors can draft a legally sufficient complaint or information charging you with a drug crime in New York such as Seventh Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, New York Penal Law 220.03, based on nominal evidence. How can law enforcement sustain a charge of PL 220.03 so easily you ask? Because if the police say you possessed drugs and explain their reasoning in boilerplate language as to why they believe it’s a controlled substance, then barring any other infirmities the information (complaint) against you is legally sufficient and will likely overcome a motion to dismiss.
Though the topic of drug crimes often conjures thoughts of sales, trafficking, or even mere possession of illegal substances, there is another important category of offense that is regularly prosecuted in New York courts. In fact, you may have been arrested an issued a Desk Appearance Ticket, or DAT, for this crime in addition to possessing a controlled substance or marijuana. What is this offense you ask? Second Degree Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia, New York Penal Law 220.50.
Second Degree Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia is classified as an “A” misdemeanor and is capable of producing serious consequences for those convicted of doing so, but understanding the law and the statute is your first step in protecting your future.