Assault, Robbery, and Other Violent Crimes

When people are charged with violent crimes, it often results from a situation which escalated quickly, unexpectedly, and in which the truth is a lot more complicated than a District Attorney recitation of facts at an arraignment. It is quite common for charges in these cases to be reduced after a more thorough investigation is completed, or after a criminal defense attorney provides much needed context to the prosecutor trying to make sense of a police officer’s report.

A common charge in domestic violence cases, bar or street fights, or confrontations in public places, Assault in the Third Degree, P.L. §120.00 is an A misdemeanor. The crime most often applies when a person “with intent to cause physical injury to another person…causes such injury to such person or a third person.” It can also involve reckless conduct leading to an injury, or negligence in the use of weapons. It is punishable by up to a year in jail and will leave a defendant with a criminal record.

Felony assaults, P.L. §120.05, 120.08, 120.10, cover a variety of conduct. Assault in the Second Degree, P.L. §120.05, a D felony, often involves injuries caused by weapons, any kind of assault upon a police officer or other types of public employees, and assaults upon the elderly or minors. Assault in the First Degree, P.L. §120.10 generally involves serious physical injury, defined as an injury which “create a substantial risk of death…protracted disfigurement…or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.” See P.L. §10.00. Stabbings, shootings, broken bones, and internal injuries will usually lead to such charges.

Robbery felonies, P.L. §160.00-160.15, involve forcible taking of property by means of physical force, or the threat of physical force. Factors which might lead to a charge of Robbery in the Second Degree, P.L. §160.10, a C felony, include whether another person aided in the Robbery, whether someone was injured during the Robbery or immediately afterward, whether a firearm or an imitation of a firearm was employed, and whether the property stolen was a vehicle. If the Robbery involved serious physical injury, or employed the use of deadly weapons (switchblades, hammers, and other items which could kill) or loaded firearms, the prosecutor is sure to charge Robbery in the First Degree, P.L. 160.15, a B felony.

Burglary offenses are usually charged when the criminal defendant either had no permission to be where the crime is alleged to have occurred, and when the facts demonstrate an intent by the defendant to commit another crime. Simple Burglary in the Third Degree, P.L. 140.20 is a D felony. More serious charges, Burglary in the Second Degree, P.L. §140.30, a Class C felony, and Burglary in the First Degree, P.L. §140.35, a Class B felony, generally apply when the location is a house or apartment, when the defendant is alleged to have been armed with a weapon or firearm, or when someone is physically injured as a result.

Common charges in Domestic Violence cases include Menacing, P.L. §120.13-120.15 and Harassment, P.L. §240.25-240.32. Menacing generally involves intentionally placing someone in reasonable fear of physical injury, serious physical injury, or death. “Physical” menace is generally required of even misdemeanor charges, but felony charges of Menacing can result if the act involves the display or a weapon or firearm, involves a course of conduct of repeated acts over a length of time, or if the criminal defendant has been convicted of menacing previously. Harassment, on the other hand, P.L. §240.25-240.32, can be proven simply by demonstrating the criminal defendant, with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person, and then took such simply acts as following the victim, threatening to shove or kick the victim, or engages in communication which results in a reasonably foreseeable fear on the part of the victim. As a result, Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, P.L. 240.30, a Class A misdemeanor, can result from threatening text messages or phone calls, spoken verbal threats, or third-party communications.

Perhaps the most important factor in the charging of these types of offenses is determining whether the alleged crime is a “violent felony.” Under New York State Law, certain offenses categorized as violent felonies carry stiffer penalties and jail sentences. Furthermore, if a criminal defendant convicted of such a crime is prosecuted for another felony within 10 years of that conviction, it can result in mandatory prison sentences that prevent attorneys from negotiating generous plea bargains.

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