Can I get my misdemeanor conviction sealed from years ago? Can I get my criminal record for a felony expunged? Fortunately, within reason, both New York sealing attorneys and criminal lawyers familiar with expungement rules in New York can now tell those who have paid their dues to society for their criminal past can hold their heads up high and look towards a bright future. While New York will not expunge your criminal record regardless of the nature of your past offenses or crimes, commencing in October 2017, the New York State legislature has now given judges the ability, should they choose to exercise their legal right, to seal up to two prior criminal convictions. Yes, you read that right. In fact, not only can the court seal your criminal cases, but employers in most cases will even be forbidden to make inquiries about your sealed past.
The old adage of “no news is good news” does not hold water when it comes to New York’s arcane and outdated criminal record expungement and sealing laws. Much to the frustration of many criminal defense attorneys who have witnessed firsthand good people getting caught up in the criminal justice system, the answer to a client’s request about the sealing and expungement of their criminal past was always the same (“was” being the relevant word). In fact, unlike many states, New York doesn’t expunge criminal records whether your conviction stemmed from a misdemeanor Third Degree Assault arrest as a twenty year old college student in Buffalo or White Plains or from a felony Fourth Degree Grand Larceny conviction you were shackled with after making an epic mistake charging $2,500 worth of personal items on the company credit card of your employer in Manhattan or Brooklyn. Whether you have long since paid for your drug crime or shown that you are an asset to society despite your conviction for a forgery related offense, New York legislators have been unsympathetic to your plight up until now. Fortunately, however, your future is about to change and drastically so.
In the State of New York a violation is defined as an offense for which a defendant can be sentenced to no more than 15 days in jail. Disorderly Conduct (New York Penal Law 240.20) is a violation of the New York State Penal Code. A Disorderly Conduct conviction can have wide ranging consequences for most people ranging from community service and fees to incarceration (not likely in most scenarios) and damage to a professional career. Disorderly conduct should only be charged when you act in a way that provokes public disorder. Furthermore, you can be charged with Disorderly Conduct as long as you intend to cause “public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creat[e] a risk thereof.” Therefore, if you do not provoke or intend to provoke, public disorder then a Disorderly Conduct arrest should not stand on its own two feet. This was exemplified in the case of People v. Zuckerberg.
Sometimes, when we are frustrated, we tend to get “cute” or “fresh.” While talking back to your mother or a friend may get you further into an argument, doing the same with the police can make a bad situation exponentially worse. Its not just a bad attitude that can aggravate a legal situation, but should you give false information to the police in New York upon your arrest, you may find yourself charged with False Personation. A “B” misdemeanor crime punishable by jail, False Personation (New York Penal Law 190.23) is a potentially serious offense.
Fortunately, as serious a crime that False Personation may be, not all bogus answers can lead to a criminal prosecution. You are guilty of NY PL 190.23 if you are advised of the consequences of misrepresenting your name, date of birth or address to the police, you actually misrepresent that information with the intent of preventing the officer from ultimately obtaining the accurate information. While the type of behavior that is criminal seems fairly straight forward, a recent New York Criminal Court decision out of Brooklyn sheds some light on the issue of how prosecutors prove this crime.
In criminal trials in the state of New York, the People (a.k.a. the prosecution) bear the burden of proving that the defendant has committed the charged offense beyond any reasonable doubt. Obviously, the role of the criminal lawyer in New York is to controvert, challenge and poke holes in People’s case. Many times in criminal trials the strongest evidence of guilt in the prosecution’s arsenal is the direct testimony of a witness. Therefore the District Attorney’s Offices, whether it be one of the five borough/counties– Manhattan, Brooklyn/Kings, the Bronx, Staten Island/Richmond, or Queens– or surrounding counties– Westchester or Rockland — must be empowered to compel these “material witnesses” to testify. A subpoena is that legal tool, which empowers the State of New York to compel testimony by a witness. Of course, even if you’ve been subpoenaed to testify in a New York criminal trial, you don’t necessarily have to testify.
Most of us don’t need a NY criminal defense attorney to tell us what the Fifth Amendment is, but many times people do confuse the scope of the Amendment. The Fifth Amendment only protects individuals from self-incrimination. That is, if your boyfriend was charged with burglary and you are subpoenaed to testify as to his whereabouts on the night in question, but you had nothing to do with the burglary and your truthful testimony will in no way incriminate (admit guilt of a crime) you, then you can potentially be compelled to testify.
As a New York criminal attorney who works on behalf of clients in the criminal trial courts throughout the New York City area–from the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan into the counties of Westchester and Rockland– I pick up on the strategies employed by the respective District Attorney’s Office. Equally important, having served as a Manhattan prosecutor for over seven years, I witnessed first hand Assistant District Attorneys pursuing these strategies. As I also saw them, I’ve noticed a trend amongst Assistant District Attorney’s trying to corroborate the allegations in a complaint and further cases even where a complainant is not cooperative. A recent case, The People v. Joseph Valentine, 2009KN083896, NYLJ 1202516492758, at *1(Criml, KI. Decided September 8, 2011) is a great illustration of this trend and thus is a case worth examining in this blog.
Mr. Valentine was charged with Assault in the Third Degree pursuant to NY PL 120.00(1), Menacing in the Third Degree pursuant to NY PL 120.15, Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation (choking) pursuant to NY PL 121.11(a), and Harassment in the Second Degree pursuant to NY PL 240.26(1). The arresting officer had responded to a “radio-run” (911 call) for a family dispute. The complainant, Ms. Ingram, who is the defendant’s girlfriend, was outside of the house hysterically crying and explained to the officer that Mr. Valentine had choked her.
If a conviction for a felony in New York was not bad enough, New York Penal Law section 80.00 sets forth the potential fines that could accompany a felony plea or a felony conviction. Pursuant to New York Penal Law 80.00(1), a court can fine a defendant the greater of (a) five thousand dollars ($5,000) or (b) two times the amount of the monies or property that the defendant gained from his or her crime. If there is a felony conviction for a drug or marijuana offense, there is a distinct and separate fine schedule.
“Gain” is defined not merely by what was misappropriated, whether it be money or property, but by the value obtained less what has been returned. In other words, if $10,000 was stolen, but $2,500 was returned to a victim, the “gain” would be $7,500. Should the evidence not clearly establish this gain, your New York criminal lawyer may demand a hearing on the issue where the court can ascertain the appropriate number.
Most experienced New York criminal lawyers will be able to tell you potential incarceratory punishments for felonies, misdemeanors and violations without hesitation. For example, in New York, an “E” felony is punishable by up to four years in state prison while and “A” misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in a county or city jail (in New York City such as Manhattan or Brooklyn, county “time” is served on Rikers). Aside from a term of imprisonment, however, what are the potential fines associated with pleas or convictions for particular crimes? This entry will address those fines that may be levied for misdemeanor and violation convictions as set forth pursuant to New York Penal Law section 80.05. Fines for Class A Misdemeanors Convictions in New York
For class “A” misdemeanors, the highest misdemeanor degree, a court can fine a defendant in an amount not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000.00). Although limited to violations of section 215.80 of the New York Penal Law, the court may impose a fine double the value or amount of the property that was disposed of by the defendant in an unlawful manner.
It is common throughout New York City and the region for judges to grant prosecutors’ requests for orders of protection whereby no contact between a complainant and defendant is permitted. These “full” orders of protection are often requested in other counties, such as in Brooklyn and Westchester, where the parties don’t even know each other and are complete strangers. What is concerning for the accused, however, is where a “full” order of protection is issued that ultimately requires one party to vacate their own home. Unquestionably, these orders of protection are often necessary to protect one individual from another. However, “full” orders of protection are also implemented where there is merely an accusation without full investigation. Prosecutors, taking the side of caution, may ask for these orders of protection, but amend them at a later date. Unfortunately, what happens to the accused if they must leave their home, their property and their possessions behind while they wait for a prosecutor or detective to conduct their investigation? What is this person to do for the weeks or months that he or she may not have access to his or her property?
Fortunately, there is a potential remedy or at least a means to challenge the order of protection in New York. If your “personal or property rights will be directly and specifically affected,” by a “full” order of protection, your attorney can request a “Forman Hearing.” Having said that, merely requesting one does not mean such a hearing will be granted and you will be successful. It is the accused’s burden to establish this direct and specific affect. Once having done so, the court must ascertain and weigh this affect against the danger(s) to the complainant. See People v. Foreman, 145. Misc. 2d 115 (NY Cty. Crim. Ct. 1989).
Reckless Endangerment, New York Penal Law sections 120.20 and 120.25, is either an “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail or a “D” felony punishable by up to seven years in state prison. While I have defined Reckless Endangerment in the First and Second Degrees in other entries, if one acts reckless and causes a substantial risk of serious physical injury or death (or they act with a depraved indifference to human life), they are setting themselves up for this charge. Having said that, merely acting stupid does not mean one acted reckless in the eyes of the law. For example, speeding in a car after consuming alcohol may not be “reckless” in the eyes of the law even though you may ultimately be convicted of DWI. Other elements should be present and “fleshed out” in the accusation. In the scenario above, one may be driving dangerously, but where there other cars or pedestrians in the street? Did the accused almost hit them? How fast was he or she speeding? What were the road conditions? There are other important facts before one’s actions give rise to at least a “substantial risk” of not merely a small injury, but serious physical injury or a grave risk of death.
Keeping with the theme of what constitutes a the crime of Reckless Endangerment in New York, a question that is often addressed is whether or not factual impossibility is a defense to the crime in New York of Reckless Endangerment in the Second or First Degree. That answer is generally yes. A great non-legal way to look at this is as follows: