Second Degree Coercion: NY Penal Law 135.61

Second Degree Coercion, New York Penal Law 135.61, is a uniquely crafted statute with a relatively recent effective date of November 2018. Best explained by your defense lawyer or victim advocate, the law is tailored specifically to crimes where sexual acts and behaviors are the subject of a coercer’s actions. Although the goals of an accused may differ from other degrees of this crime, the offense nonetheless shares many similarities with the higher and lower degrees of Coercion. Moreover, while sounding similar, it is distinct and separate from New York Extortion laws and Blackmail crimes. If you are either accused of violating this criminal code and arrested by the NYPD in NYC or another police agency in the Hudson Valley, or you are the victim of an abuser anywhere in the state, understanding the code and retaining the best attorney to counsel and advise you on your rights and the means to protect and defend yourself is critical.

Definition and Elements

NY Penal Law 135.6, Second Degree Coercion, is premised on a violation of the lesser misdemeanor offense with the commission of further illegal acts. In substance, if you compel or induce another person to engage in or refrain from behaving in a legal manner that he or she can choose on his or her own, the first set of elements is satisfied. In “forcing” a complainant to act a certain way, the threats can be to cause a physical injury, damage property and humiliate or embarrass the targeted person by publicly exposing a bogus or true secret. Additionally, accusing him or her of criminal wrongdoing, as well as other specifically legislated conduct, all satisfy the additional elements. The case diverges from the misdemeanor to a felony, when your goal is, and the target acquiesces with fear to, sexual intercourse or anal or oral sexual conduct.

Penalties and Punishment

As a class “E” felony, a conviction for this degree carries with it a sentence of up to four years in prison. Assuming that no other charges are filed or you only plead to this offenses, a judge could use his or her discretion in punishing you with probation, community service, fines or even a jail sentence one year or less.

Potential Defenses

An allegation that you forced, strong-armed, or pressured a person to have some form of sexual relations with you under threat of being shamed publicly, threatened with violence, or accused of a crime is quite serious. That said, an allegation is not proof positive of wrongdoing. Did you admit to the police that you made the threats? Whether you had intercourse or not, how is the District Attorney connecting the sex with the intimidation and corroborating that it was nonconsensual? For that matter, is there evidence of this sexual encounter, and, if so, was it from a rape kit, confirmation through a text of voice message or even an admission by an apology? Evidence specific, any defense you propose must have credibility. The more time you have to develop and facts you have to support your defense the greater likelihood of its success.

Related Offenses and Collateral Issues

It is worth noting that nothing would prevent prosecutors from charging you both with Second and First Degree Coercion if your conduct was sexual in nature and the result of a threat to cause bodily harm. Law enforcement can pursue multiple theories and present the same to a Grand Jury. Additionally, when sex or other contact is without consent, there are numerous Article 130 Sex Crimes that may be charged. These include Rape, Criminal Sexual Act and Sexual Abuse, among others. Compounding matters, these offenses can exceed the underlying Coercion charge.

It may not take a legal scholar to either explain or understand that an arrest, or a far worse conviction, for this offense is devastating. Assumptions will be made in the court of public opinion, familial relationships challenged, and careers pushed to the precipice. Non-citizens will likely encounter significant immigration issues and professionals who report to FINRA, the Bar, and other bodies will no doubt risk the loss of their respective licenses. With all the moving pieces, getting on top and maintaining control of your case as it winds through the justice system cannot be overstated.

Examples and Hypotheticals

If in order to have intercourse with another person you scare them into submitting to your demands because you will otherwise accuse him publicly or her of using or selling drugs, your conduct would fall within the language of this statute. Similar, if you threaten to embarrass and demean your alleged victim with sexually explicit images of him or her and email the same to colleagues and business associates if there is no sex, then the spirit and letter of the law is violated as well.

Your Defense, Your Case, Your Future

Whenever an arrest, indictment or trial involves sexual misconduct and the victimization of someone in a lesser position of power, you should expect the courts will have no qualms of severely punishing the convicted. If, as the abused and harassed, you want to put a legal end to your victimization outside the courts or in a discrete manner within the justice system, there are potential means to do so. No matter where you find yourself, however, without the right advocate and legal counsel, what is terrifying now can, and very well may, get worse.

Protect yourself and allow knowledge, experience and advocacy to serve as both your shield and sword. Take the first step and consult with the criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC. Do not leave yourself further exposed.

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

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