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New York Criminal Defense Blog

What are terroristic threats?

The perception amongst many in New York is that violent crimes are limited to those that involve actual physical confrontations between individuals. In reality, a violent crime can be one where no action was taken, yet great fear and intimidation was inferred. You are probably familiar with the age-old saying of "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." In the eyes of the law, that statement is most definitely untrue. 

Per Section 490.20 of New York's Penal Code, you can be prosecuted for making terroristic threats. These are threats intended to cause the reasonable fear or expectation that terrorist actions are imminent. In the context of this law, terrorist actions are defined as: 

  • Intimidating or coercing a civilian population
  • Influencing the policy of a unit of government by intimidation or coercion
  • Affecting the action of a unit of government by murder, assassination or kidnapping

Fatal drunk driving crashes can lead to criminal charges

Any adult who is going to head out to an event with alcohol should make sure that they plan for getting home. Trying to make it home after a few drinks can be a dangerous proposition, not only because of the risk of criminal charges if you are stopped by the police, but due to the chance of being involved in an accident.

Many people don't realize what a large problem drunk driving is. There is gruesome news when it comes to the number of people who die in alcohol-related crashes. This number has decreased by around 48 percent since 1982. When you consider only people under 21, the number of drunk driving fatalities has decreased by around 80 percent.

What is mens rea?

If you are facing criminal charges related to violent crime in New York, the judge and jury will take not only the facts of your case into consideration but also your state of mind as you allegedly performed the acts resulting in the charges. Intentional actions to harm someone else can result in more serious penalties, so the prosecution will be attempting to prove that you had a motive for allegedly acting in a way that could cause harm to one or more others. At the same time, you and your attorney will likely try to cast doubt upon the intent behind your actions. According to FindLaw, the legal term for one's state of mind while allegedly committing a crime is mens rea, which translates from Latin to "guilty mind." 

The question of mens rea comes down to whether you intended to break the law and/or behave in a way that would cause harm to others. For example, if you injure or kill someone as a result of a motor vehicle accident but made attempts to avoid the collision, you are unlikely to face criminal charges, although you may be liable for monetary damages in civil court. It would, however, be a different matter if you actively sought out an individual to hit with your car and accelerated to hit him or her with the most force possible.

What is the difference between federal and state courts?

For those who have been accused of committing a crime in New York, it is important to understand if the charge is a state or a federal one. The differences can affect the jurisdiction, the outcome and the length of a sentence. It may also make a difference on the record of the accused.

According to FindLaw, local and state courts are established by the state they are in. In states, there may also be courts established by counties, cities and other municipalities. The United States Constitution established federal courts and they are used to settle disputes between laws passed by Congress and the Constitution.

Vehicular assault charges in alleged New York hit and run

So far in 2019, motor vehicles have caused the deaths of 21 pedestrians in New York City, which is more than the number of pedestrian fatalities caused by car accidents that had occurred by this time last year. One of the most recent of these fatal collisions occurred last Friday evening on Amsterdam Avenue in Harlem, where a hit-and-run driver allegedly crashed into a 26-year-old woman, who later died at the hospital. The driver, a 27-year-old man, now faces charges including operating a motor vehicle impaired by drugs, failure to report an accident, aggravated operation of a motor vehicle, vehicular manslaughter, driving without a license and vehicular assault. 

Witnesses to the accident inside a nearby restaurant report hearing no sound of screeching tires that would have indicated that the driver tried to stop the vehicle or avoid the accident, reporting that only lights from the vehicle drew their attention to the scene where they saw the pedestrian lying on the ground following the collision. Allegedly, the driver was traveling south on Amsterdam Avenue at a high rate of speed as the pedestrian stepped off the curb at the intersection with West 141st Street. Reports indicate that the vehicle then struck her, pinning her between the vehicle and a nearby parked car, then sped off again. The driver allegedly then crashed into an SUV waiting at a stoplight after turning onto Hamilton Place. Authorities arrested him shortly thereafter. He had sustained injuries that required hospitalization, but it is unknown which collision, or both, caused his injuries, nor is it known whether he is still in the hospital or what his current condition may be. 

What is a voluntary manslaughter charge?

In New York, there are different charges that you could face if you are driving while under the influence and end up harming another person. Today, we will take a specific look at involuntary manslaughter, what it means, and how it differs from other charges.

FindLaw defines involuntary manslaughter as criminal recklessness or negligence that results in unintentional death. In other words, two main components need to be present for a death to be classified as involuntary manslaughter. First, the actions leading up to the death must have been negligent or reckless. Generally speaking, any DUI-related incident will automatically fall into this category due to the reckless nature of driving while under the influence of a substance.

What is eyewitness misidentification?

In many court trials across the United States, eyewitnesses are used to identify potential perpetrators of a crime. Suspects and fillers are made to stand in a lineup, while the eyewitness makes a physical identification. The problem lies in the fact that errors in the lineup identification process can lead to wrongful convictions and innocent people may be sent to prison for a crime they did not commit. According to the Innocence Project, 346 people were exonerated of their crimes after DNA evidence proved their innocence. Approximately 70 percent of those cases involved eyewitness identification and listed it as a contributing factor to the conviction error.

There are a myriad of things that can go wrong when witnesses are asked to choose a suspect from a lineup. First, the lineup administrator may inadvertently lead the witness to choose a specific person. Furthermore, the lineup may be organized in a way that promotes a person to stand out from the others. For example, if the suspect of a crime was said to have long hair and a tattoo, there should be more than one person in the lineup matching these characteristics. The witness should also be told that the suspect may or may not be present in the lineup, so he or she does not feel inclined to choose someone. Finally, all lineup procedures should be recorded so the judge and jury can review the process to ensure the procedures were handled correctly.

Did you know a misdemeanor DUI could become a felony?

The only surefire way to avoid a criminal charge for DUI is to avoid drinking and driving. Unfortunately, since many people make the mistake of getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol, you never know when you could find yourself in serious trouble with the law.

Although every type of DUI charge is serious, as it can impact your life in many ways, a misdemeanor is the lowest level. With this type of charge, you're less likely to face a serious penalty, such as jail time.

The impact of early intervention on teen violence

When parents in New York begin to see the changes in their children as they become teenagers, they often face intense emotions and decisions about how to protect and teach their kids without smothering them. Developing a balance and feeling confident in their children's ability to make responsible decisions can be supported a great deal by early intervention and consistent education throughout their child's younger years. 

Youth violence affects a lot more people than many realize. Unfortunately, once a teenager engages in violent behavior once, it is not unlikely that it may happen again. In many cases, their involvement in continual violent crime may increase until they are in dangerous situations where their life is compromised. Parents that know the risks of teen violence and understand the warning signs of potentially violent behavior, can take initiative to help their children to discover alternate ways of coping with problems before the issue intensifies and becomes a dangerous threat. 

Man set free after being wrongfully convicted

Many people believe that all prisoners are guilty of committing a crime and deserve to be locked behind bars. They may be surprised to learn that not all people serving time are guilty, and that a number of prisoners are instead innocent of committing a crime at all. Flaws in the United States judicial system have led to the wrongful conviction and incarceration of hundreds of people, and there may be hundreds more that remain behind bars waiting to be set free.

Just recently, a Bronx man was exonerated of his sentence after serving 19 years in prison as an innocent person. His wrongful conviction was based off several factors, including false statements made to the courts, as well as psychological coercion used during the confession process. The man was just 16-years-old when he was charged with the crime and grieving after losing his mother. The detectives who questioned the young boy used techniques, such as sleep deprivation and isolation and threatened him that they would add further charges if he did not confess to the crime.

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