First Degree Coercion: NY Penal Law 135.65

Significantly more serious than the two other degrees, First Degree Coercion is a felony offense that can, and routinely does, land the convicted in either a county jail or state penitentiary. Setting aside the potential sentence if convicted, New York Penal Law 135.65 is routinely mistaken for both Blackmail and Extortion but it is a distinct offense. That said, irrespective of which of these statutes you run afoul and regardless if your case is in NYC, Westchester or Rockland, if you are under investigation, arrested or ultimately indicted for any degree of Coercion, hiring the best criminal defense attorney can make the difference between being sent “upstate,” bettering an offer from the prosecution or even mitigating your conduct to avoid a life long record.

Definition and Elements

You cannot adequately defend yourself against an accusation of Coercion if you do not fully understand the elements of this offense or the lesser crimes. You are guilty of the First Degree charge if you compel and induce another person to behave, or not act, in a manner they are legally entitled. You must also “force” your target to do so by instilling fear in your intended victim that you will cause a physical injury to him or her or cause damage to their property irrespective of how and the extent of the same. Alternatively, the second subsection criminalizes similar conduct but instead of threatening to hurt that other person if they do not do as you require, you are demanding that he or she commit or attempt to commit a felony; inflict or try to cause a physical injury to another person or violate their duty as a public servant. Remember, unlike Blackmail and Extortion, it is not property or money an alleged coercer seeks but that the subject of the duress behaves in a particular manner.

It is worth noting that Penal Law 135.65 and 135.60 share the elements of a threat to damage property or cause a physical injury, the Court of Appeals, the top court in the state, has held that the language is not duplicative thereby mandating that a felony charge also be levied as a misdemeanor. To the contrary, and worthy of discussion with your lawyer, the Court ruled that by default, this felony offense is the applicable crime.

Potential Sentence and Punishment

Similar to any class “D” felony, assuming your record is clean, your maximum possible imprisonment is significant even if not mandated by law. Although a court need not sentence you to prison, a conviction will expose you to as much as two and one third to seven years in prison. Assuming a judge decides this punishment is not warranted, he or she has the authority to incarcerate you to a lesser sentence, require that you are monitored by the Department of Probation, or set just about any subjectively reasonable condition. Moreover, you should expect that the court will grant the complainant at least a five year Order of Protection in his if her favor ensuring that you do not make any contact.

Example and Hypothetical

You have a former business partner who refuses to tell you about conversations he had with third parties and investments he made. This person has every right to tell you…or not. In frustration, you tell him that if he does not “cough up” his dealings, you will break his leg. Extreme and a bit unlikely? Maybe, but when he tells you what you want to hear and he did so because of his fear that you would physically injure him, you likely violated, among other crimes, PL 135.65

Collateral Crimes and Issues

Using the above scenario as an example, if you have a bat in your hand when you make this demand, you likely have committed a degree of Menacing and Criminal Possession of a Weapon to name a couple other crimes.

Irrespective of what other conduct violates the law, both an arrest and conviction can throw your life into a tailspin. What will happen when an employer finds out of your alleged acts? What if anything must you share with a licensing agency? If you are not a citizen, is this a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude, and, if so, what will become of your legal status?

Your Defense, Your Case, Your future

Again, Coercion in any degree is not the same thing as either Extortion or Blackmail by Grand Larceny but a threat to induce someone to do something they have a right to abstain from or the reverse. Extortion is a crime that can be equal or greater in terms of punishment and involves many similar elements, but Blackmail mandates that the accused secure property from his or her victim.

Regardless of the degree, there are many questions you must ask. Was there a misunderstanding? Are you actually the victim? What evidence exists beyond the words of the complainant? Is there a video, text message, voice recording or even a witness to corroborate the threat attributed to you? Regardless of your defense, you will only succeed if it is orchestrated in a manner that will put you in a position to best challenge the allegations. Failure to do so may or may not leave you incarcerated but will saddle you with a life altering and career decimating criminal record.

When accused or a victim of any crime in New York City and the Hudson Valley, take the steps to protect yourself and contact the New York Coercion lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC so advocacy, knowledge and experience can be your guide.

Call our criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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