Articles Posted in Understanding New York Criminal Law

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Yesterday, during the Oscars award show in Los Angeles, comedian Chris Rock – the emcee/host of the event – made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss. Will Smith, her husband and a famous actor, promptly walked onstage and smacked Rock hard in the face. Smith then sat back in his seat and cursed repeatedly at Rock. Obviously, this happened in California, so California state law applies to Smith’s slap. Apparently, Chris Rock has decided not to file any criminal charges or make any police reports in connection with the event, which was obviously witnessed by millions of people on live television.

This interesting and unexpected exchange provides a fun example to consider New York criminal law: What charges, if any, might have applied to this slap had it happened onstage in New York?

The most significant plausible charge here would be the Class A misdemeanor or Assault in the Third Degree (Penal Law Section 120.00). That statute makes it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail to intentionally cause physical injury to another person. Here, however, it does not seem that Chris Rock suffered any physical injury significant enough to justify the charge. Indeed, although he was obviously dazed and it appeared to be a fairly hard slap, Rock carried on with his emcee duties and even made a few quips about what had happened. A physical injury, as defined by New York law, is supposed to be “substantial pain” and/or “impairment of a bodily function.” Surely Rock felt some pain from the slap, but it appears to have been too temporary to have really justified an assault charge under New York law.

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It was recently announced by the New York Attorney General’s Office that disgraced former New York governor Andrew Cuomo would be criminally prosecuted for an alleged groping of a female staffer at the governor’s mansion in Albany. 

Specifically, Cuomo will be charged with one count of Forcible Touching, in violation of Penal Law Section 130.52.* That code makes it a class A misdemeanor to intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose:

1. forcibly touch the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person, or for the purpose of gratifying the actor’s sexual desire;  or
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The Assimilative Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 13, makes state law applicable to conduct occurring on lands reserved or acquired by the Federal government (as provided in 18 U.S.C. § 7(3)), when the act or omission is not already a crime under Federal law. For example, a person who commits the New York state law crime of Assault in the Third Degree on federal property might actually be prosecuted in federal court for, essentially, a violation of that state crime. The Assimilative Crimes Act could also possibly provide for the prosecution of sexual assault, burglary, and theft cases on federal property, to name a few examples. See e.g. Hockenberry v. United States, 422 F.2d 171 (9th Cir. 1970). See also United States v. Bowers, 660 F.2d 527 (5th Cir. 1981) (child abuse); United States v. Smith, 574 F.2d 988 (9th Cir. 1978)(sodomy); United States v. Johnson, 967 F.2d 1431 (10th Cir. 1992)(aggravated assault); United States v. Griffith, 864 F.2d 421 (6th Cir. 1988)(reckless assault); United States v. Kaufman, 862 F.2d 236 (9th Cir. 1988)(assault); Fesler v. United States, 781 F.2d 384 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1118 (1986)(child abuse).

Finally, it should be noted that although many crimes can be prosecuted in both state and federal court without violating the principle of Double Jeopardy, a state law crime prosecuted in federal court via the Assimilative Crimes Act cannot also be prosecuted in state court. See Grafton v. United States, 206 U.S. 333 (1907).

If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with a crime occurring on federal property in the New York City area, you should strongly consider contacting the Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo PLLC. Many defense attorneys know state law but are unfamiliar with the unique procedures of federal practice. Matthew Galluzzo, however, is a former Manhattan state prosecutor with over twenty years of experience who now specializes primarily in the defense of federal crimes. Give him a call to discuss your case and his possible representation of you.

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In federal court, the sentences for narcotics trafficking can be quite severe. The maximum and minimum penalties are generally contained in 21 U.S.C. Section 841. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines also help predict a likely outcome for a federal narcotics case. Generally speaking, the charges normally can be divided into three subsections of the law: 21 U.S.C. Section 841(b)(1)(A) provides for a ten year mandatory minimum sentence, 21 U.S.C. Section 841(b)(1)(B) most provides for a five year mandatory minimum sentence, and 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(C) has no mandatory minimum sentence. However, those penalties can change significantly if a person overdoses or dies as a result of the drug at issue, and if the convicted seller has a prior conviction for selling narcotics.

For example, if a person is convicted in federal court of selling even a small amount of drugs, and one of his customers dies from an overdose, the minimum penalty immediately becomes 20 years. If the convicted person also has a prior conviction for selling narcotics, that person may face a life sentence for having sold drugs that results in an overdose.

These cases can certainly be defended against at trial. It can be difficult for prosecutors to prove which drugs a deceased person may have consumed, who they purchased them from, or whether the drugs were actually responsible for the person’s death. However, these cases are extremely serious and should be defended by an attorney with experience in these matters. Matthew Galluzzo, a federal criminal defense attorney and former Manhattan prosecutor, has defended individuals accused of trafficking narcotics resulting in death. If you or a loved one are facing federal charges relating to narcotics, you should strongly consider contacting him to discuss his possible engagement.

 

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Recently, in response to the horrific killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, there have been protests in major cities across the United States. An upstate woman and two New York attorneys were arrested and charged in federal court with crimes relating to their alleged throwing of Molotov cocktails at police vehicles during the protests in Brooklyn. However, most protestors arrested in New York City are charged with Desk Appearance Tickets in state court, and are typically charged with some combination of the following crimes: Obstructing Governmental Administration in the Second Degree (Penal Law 195.05, a Class A misdemeanor), Assault in the Second Degree (Penal Law 120.05, felony assault on a police officer, a class D felony), Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree (Penal Law 120.20, a Class A misdemeanor), Resisting Arrest (Penal Law 205.30, a class A misdemeanor), or Disorderly Conduct (Penal Law 240.20, a violation). (Note: the charge(s) listed on the Desk Appearance Ticket are not necessarily the same as the charges that will appear in court on the actual criminal complaint – in fact, the number of charges usually increases from the Desk Appearance Ticket to the actual court complaint).

Oftentimes, in these cases in which no one was injured, a protester-defendant could – with the help of an experienced attorney – successfully negotiate a plea bargain whereby the protester will have no criminal record and spend no time in jail (such as an “adjournment in contemplation of dismissal or a violation like Disorderly Conduct). In cases involving Desk Appearance Tickets, such negotiations may even be possible prior to the return date (i.e. the first court appearance). However, for reasons relating to principle, many protester-defendants refuse to accept any such deal, preferring to demand dismissal or a trial where their voices can be heard by a jury. Such an attitude is certainly understandable but it does tend to increase the risk of a negative result (such as a permanent criminal record).

Unfortunately, some protests escalate into confrontations with police officers. In those cases, charges like Assault in the Second Degree can sometimes be levied against arrested protesters alleged to have injured police officers. That charge is a serious felony that can carry real jail time, and should not be treated lightly at all. The best defense in these cases is often to argue that the defendant did not act unreasonably, and that any injuries to the police officer were sustained on account of his/her own aggressive or improper actions. In today’s current climate, that argument can have real traction with some jurors.

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Proffers are a big and important part of federal criminal defense practice. Basically, it involves a defendant, a witness, a person of interest, or a person with information having a face-to-face meeting with a prosecutor and law enforcement agents while accompanied by an attorney. (Attorneys can also have “attorney proffers” whereby the attorney tells the prosecutor what his client would say if the client were to hypothetically have a proffer with them).

Proffers can be done for many reasons: to initiate cooperation agreements, to attempt to persuade a prosecutor of one’s innocence, to offer information for an investigation, or to seek leniency at sentencing. Regardless of the reason, however, they should never be undertaken lightly.

First and foremost, a person proffering to federal law enforcement cannot lie. Obviously, if law enforcement discovers that the person has lied during a proffer, then that person’s credibility will be destroyed. Thus, any hope for a cooperation agreement or mitigation at sentencing will be eliminated. There are two other equally important reasons, however. First, a lie during a proffer can be prosecuted potentially as a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, which makes it a federal crime to lie to a law enforcement officer. This is typically why prosecutors bring law enforcement agents (FBI, Homeland Security, etc.) to the proffers. Similarly, a lie during a proffer session can result in an enhanced sentence for any related convictions, under the theory that the lie “obstructed justice.” Finally, a lie during a proffer session could invalidate the proffer agreement, which otherwise protects a person from having those statements during the proffer session used against them.

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A charge of 18 USC Section 924(c) for using or possessing a firearm in the course of drug trafficking or some other violent crime is a common criminal charge in federal court. The charge also carries very significant potential penalties that must run consecutive any other sentences imposed for other related crimes. Thus, if you or a loved one have been arrested or indicted for this crime, you should seriously consider retaining an aggressive and experienced federal criminal defense attorney like Matthew Galluzzo.

The statute reads as follows (18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)):

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The experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo have successfully represented dozens of individuals accused of violating Penal Law Section 265.01 (Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree). In New York City, these cases are often brought as Desk Appearance Tickets, and the arrests are oftentimes made during routine examinations during traffic stops, in the subway system, or at the airport.

A person is guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree when:

(1) He or she possesses any firearm, electronic dart gun, electronic stun gun, gravity knife, switchblade knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, cane sword, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, plastic knuckles, metal knuckles, chuka stick, sand bag, sandclub, wrist-brace type slingshot or slungshot, shirken or “Kung Fu star”;  or
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Between 2007 and 2016, over 58,000 unruly passenger incidents were reported on International aircraft in-flight by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). In 2016, the rate was one incident for every 1.424 flights. The majority of reports were Level 1 incidents which are verbal in nature and can usually be dealt with to a successful conclusion by crew using de-escalation training. 12% of reports relate to Level 2 incidents which involve physical aggression to others or damage to the aircraft. Intoxication from alcohol or drugs was identified as a factor in 33% of reported cases. Unruly passenger incidents include violence against crew and other passengers, harassment, verbal abuse, smoking, failure to follow safety instructions and other forms of riotous behavior. Recently, a woman was removed from a Frontier Airlines flight when she attempted to fly with her “emotional support” squirrel and then refused to get off the plane when she was told rodents, including squirrels, are not allowed on Frontier flights. Frontier, like many airlines, has a policy on emotional support and trained service animals allowing cats, dogs and miniature horses. Federal regulations do permit them on airplanes but give the airlines permission to turn away unusual animals, like squirrels. The passenger was advised of the policy and asked to deplane, but when she declined, other passengers were forced to deplane so that authorities could remove the woman from the aircraft.

Although such acts are committed by a tiny minority of passengers, they have a disproportionate impact, create inconvenience, threaten the safety and security of other passengers and crew, and lead to significant operational disruption and costs for airlines. The aircraft cabin is a unique space and it is necessary to recognize the limitations that exist when you are flying in the air in a metal tub. As a result, these sorts of in-flight disturbances frequently result in law enforcement officers becoming involved.

One of the likely reasons for the increasing reports of disruptive passengers is the existence of a gap in international law and the fact that many countries don’t apply their laws to foreign aircraft arriving on their soil. Passenger behavior is subject to the law of the country the plane is registered in. The passengers responsible often walk away and victims of violence can’t always take practical legal actions. Yet, American Federal law bans passengers from interfering with flight crew. Also, certain acts which would be punishable if they occurred in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, defined in 18 U.S.C. § 7, are made criminal under 49 U.S.C. § 46506(1) (formerly 49 U.S.C. App. § 1472(k)(1)) if they occur within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States.

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New York City has some of the nicest urban scenery to be found anywhere on Earth. Drones equipped with cameras may seem perfectly suited to photograph these scenes. Generally speaking, drones are becoming increasingly popular, so if you are an enthusiast, it is important to educate yourself on the law, rules and regulations that come with flying drones in the 55,000 square mile area of New York. Unfortunately, flying any sort of (manned or unmanned) aircraft over the city is banned except in certain designated locations (see below for exceptions). Paolo Prosetti, a Swiss tourist, was arrested two weeks ago after he crashed his drone through a 21st floor window in Times Square and tried to retrieve the drone and pay for the damage.

Notably, federal law and regulations take precedence over state and local laws. This means that everyone in the USA must register his drone with the Federal Aviation Administration and follow the FAA’s Special Rule for Model Aircraft.

There are nine major cities in New York State and all of them have made it illegal to fly drones in them (except for commercial drone applications which might get individual permits or licenses). Luckily, New York City allows you to take your drone to the skies in designated parks and model airfields like:

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