Crimes involving elected and other public officials can be some of the most complex and highly charged cases in the criminal justice system. Whether the accused is a local Spring Valley, Rockland County mayor or trustee, a New York City judge, or a New York State Senator in Albany, these cases can attract the public eye (and ire) as well as the full focus of a District Attorney’s Office like no other. Generally speaking, public corruption refers to situations in which a government official demands, accepts, solicits or agrees to accept something of value in return for their influence or power. Public officials charged with public corruption crimes not only face the penalties associated with a conviction, such as state prison or probation, but also embarrassment, humiliation, the end of a career or removal from office. In fact, recent legislation can also strip them of their pensions. Having a New York criminal defense attorney who is experience with the unique implications and political dynamics of these kinds of prosecutions, as well as the distinctive issues often presented at a trial on these charges, is essential.
The prescription drug epidemic may not be as rampant as the crack and cocaine abuse in the 80s and 90s, but it is no less harmful and frightening. Whether a drug is Oxycodone, Xanax, Hydrocodone, Adderall or some other prescribed controlled substance or narcotic, the potential harm to the abuser, his or her family and the community-at-large is great. Because of this, law enforcement from the NYPD in New York City to smaller police departments, as well as the District Attorneys prosecuting crime in the associated jurisdiction, have sought to disrupt the illegal trade and sale of these drugs. That is where the crime of Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medication and Prescriptions, New York Penal Law Article 178, becomes part of law enforcement’s arsenal to combat the illegal sale, possession and trade of prescription drugs.
This blog entry will identify and address the differences between the varying degrees of Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medication – NY PL 178.10, NY PL 178.15, NY PL 178.20, NY PL 178.25 – and potential punishment associated with each crime.
One not need a JD from Harvard, or any legal degree at all, to recognize that Blackmail and Extortion, fundamentally the same thing, are crimes. Codified in the New York State Penal Law under Article 155, Extortion is a form or means by which a person commits Grand Larceny, a felony. By default, no matter the property type or amount secured by Blackmail in New York, Penal Law 155.30(6) makes any extorter or blackmailer guilty of a class “E” felony upon conviction. If the value of the property secured by the blackmailer is north of $3,000, $50,000 or $1 million, so is the extorter’s exposure to significant lengths of incarceration on greater felonies. Moreover, if violence is part of the extorter’s conduct, the offense level can also be increased.
Sometimes the crime of Extortion is easy to identify, investigate and prosecute. Other times the target is either hard to identify, find or legally pursue within the bounds of the law. Whether you, as a victim, go to Federal, New York State or local law enforcement, or you retain an Extortion lawyer to fend off a wrongdoer so he or she ceases and desists, is your decision. However, the question addressed in this blog entry is potentially a complicated one on its face, but one easily addressed by the law. If you reside in New York, but your blackmailer lives out of state, can her or she still be prosecuted by a District Attorney or can your New York Extortion attorney still attempt to stop your victimizer with a cease and desist letter or other legal means?
Not every criminal lawyer in New York is an Extortion lawyer or Blackmail attorney. You can be well versed in the New York Penal Law, but not be familiar or have experience with the numerous subsections and theories of a Grand Larceny Extortion case. Fortunately for a Crotty Saland PC client, knowledge, experience and advocacy paid off in what on its face appeared to be a clear-cut violation of New York Penal Law 155.30(6) and other crimes.
After a night of consuming alcohol, our client was alleged to have demanded thousands of dollar from a fellow reveler encountered the night before. More than a mere inconsequential meeting, our client woke in the bed of this man having no recollection of coming home with him. Upon learning that the two had intercourse, our client became extremely alarmed and insisted any sex was without consent. While it was likely indisputable that our client lacked the ability to consent, our client allegedly made a grave mistake and demanded multiple thousands of dollars from the man or our client would report the crime to the NYPD. Ultimately cutting our client a check, our client left and only reported the incident after the check did not clear. At the same time, the man filed a complaint for Extortion.
Am I the victim of Extortion? Am I being Blackmailed? How are these crimes different than Coercion? I know someone is preying on me and making demands, but what, if any, crime has this person committed? To answer these questions lets examine the following scenarios.
I’m being threatened over some pictures my ex got a hold of. If I don’t pay him he will send them to my employer, landlord and friends on Instagram. I’m being threatened over a compromising video my ex secured without my permission, but instead of wanting money she says that if I don’t tell my family that I’ve done something wrong or admit to my boss I’ve used drugs, she will share it with these same people.
While the above hypotheticals may seem very similar, very similar and the same are quite different. In the eyes of the New York Penal Law, criminal defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges, the above two scenarios are the foundation of two distinct and separate crimes – Grand Larceny Extortion (Blackmail) and Coercion respectively.
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has facial recognition technology that is both sophisticated and widely utilized. DMV Investigators, somewhat similar to an NYPD Detective, use face recognition technology in conjunction with old fashion investigatory skills to review applications for New York State Drivers Licenses to determine whether an applicant has previously applied for and received a drivers license under a fake name or alias. Further, the DMV investigators look to see whether an applicant has old and outstanding summonses or suspensions on his or her license. So, what is it that you expose yourself to when making certain misrepresentations at the DMV? What felony and misdemeanor crimes are you exposed to and what should you discuss with your criminal defense attorney to navigate an arrest should it occur?
Advocating effectively is not as easy as it seems. Understanding the criminal justice system in a practical sense takes experience. Doing your homework on your client’s criminal case to put him or her in the best position to resolve that case favorably takes diligence. The end result, however, can be well worth all the work for both the accused and the criminal defense attorney who secured justice. In fact, for a few recent Crotty Saland PC clients, what were originally nightmarish experiences ended in closed cases, non-criminal dispositions and outright dismissals.
Many people believe that if you need a top criminal defense attorney, or any for that matter, you are clearly guilty of something. Whether that belief is misguided is fairly irrelevant, of course, until it is you who needs a criminal defense lawyer. That said, there are very few things in life as debilitating and emotionally destructive as being accused of a crime you did not commit. Maybe you did something morally wrong or maybe you did nothing improper at all, but law enforcement, such as the NYPD and the District Attorney, or a complainant incorrectly interpreted your acts or intent. Yes, where there is smoke there is often fire, but life teaches us that this is by no means a given truth.
You, the accused, have rights and the prosecution must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Their failure or inability to do so means your case should be dismissed. For a recent Crotty Saland PC client employed in the banking and financial sector, a dismissal of all charges, including felony Third Degree Grand Larceny, is just how the criminal case ended not merely because our client was innocent, but due to advocacy of those same criminal defense attorneys many of us believe only represent the guilty.
At first she demands a few hundred or even a couple of thousands of dollars. Maybe he tells you he just needs some money because of an emergency, but you know what’s coming. You’re not naive. You can see the writing on the wall. Blackmail. Extortion. Coercion. Harassment. You say to yourself, “I am being blackmailed. I am being extorted. Do I hire an attorney to get my blackmailer to stop? Is there any alternative to stop an extorter other than the police? How do I best keep all of this a secret and not expose my affair, drug use, business fraud or other wrongdoing whether it is my victimizer is telling the truth or concocting a completely bogus story?” While each situation demands a different analysis as to the pros and cons of protecting yourself through the assistance of law enforcement or an attorney and private investigator, the moment you have handed over even one dollar to your blackmailer, he or she has committed the felony of Grand Larceny Extortion. That crime, Fourth Degree Grand Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.30(6), is a class “E” felony with a potential sentence of up to four years in prison. If your extorter threatens violence and some physical injury or to damage your property, the offense jumps to a class “C” felony of Second Degree Grand Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.40(2). Again, irrespective of the amount actually secured from you or the nature of the property, this offense is punishable by as much as fifteen years in prison.
As important as it is to know the consequences of your victimizer’s actions, it does not answer the question as to what you should do. Do nothing and hope that it will stop? File a complaint with the police? Hire an attorney to stop your extorter in his or her tracks? While the first of these options is not much of an option at all, the New York Daily News’ story on Crotty Saland’s PC’s “Busting Blackmailers” puts one option front and center.
Any attorney who claims that white collar crimes are not as serious as those involving violence is a lawyer who likely has neither the knowledge nor experience how thefts, larcenies, frauds and other schemes are investigated and prosecuted in New York City or elsewhere in the Hudson Valley. While a theft crime for Embezzlement, Extortion, or another related offense may not require mandatory prison and incarceration upon conviction in most circumstances for first time offenders, the practical reality is that a sentence “upstate” is far from atypical. Even those who don’t face a sentence of this magnitude recognize that a felony conviction will forever tarnish their name, follow them throughout their lives and careers, and end never be expunged. Want to work in the financial sector, public sector, as a teacher, lawyer, physician, accountant, nurse or merely have a professional career? It will be a long time before you ever, if you can, run away from a conviction. Fortunately for a recent Crotty Saland PC client charged with Second Degree Grand Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.40(1), Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, New York Penal Law 165.45(1), and Fourth Degree Grand Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.30(4), an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal will remove one of the most horrific experiences of our client’s life within six months.