Third Degree Coercion: NY Penal Law 135.60

Coercion, Extortion and Blackmail all seem like very similar crimes, but an experienced criminal attorney versed in the New York Penal law can readily explain the intricacies differentiating these offenses and the steps how you, an accused or victim, need to take to protect yourself. At bottom, while Blackmail involves the threatening and intimidating of a person to turn over property or money, the Coercion is compelling a person to engage in certain conduct or to refrain from the behavior based on the same fears and duress. Outside of the fact that these statutes share many commonalities, one of the greatest differences is that Coercion in New York is not always a felony. Case in point, Third Degree Coercion, a misdemeanor offense, pursuant to Penal Law 135.60. While it may be a misdemeanor, have no misgivings as to the severity of PL 135.60. It is vigorously prosecuted when the elements are met and few, if any, prosecutors or judges will sympathize with your plight post-conviction.

Definition and Elements

The Third Degree “variety” occurs when you induce or compel a person to engage in particular conduct that he or she has every legal right not to participate. Alternatively, you push or frighten this person to refrain or abstain from conduct he or she is legally allowed to pursue. Although it really does not need delineation, convincing a person to join a group, organization or criminal enterprise would also run afoul of the law where that person had a right to abstain from joining. Coupled with one of the above actions, the means by which you persuade a person to abstain or engage in conduct must be based in a fear that if the target person does not comply you will take certain acts against this person as follows:

  1. Cause the person a physical injury: This injury need only be nominal and cause substantial pain. The threat needn’t rise to disfigurement, death or an injury as a result of a weapon.
  2. Cause damage to their property: This damage is not complete destruction of property or an act rendering the property useless or inoperable.
  3. Engage in conduct constituting a crime: It is irrelevant whether the criminal conduct is a misdemeanor or felony.
  4. Accuse a person of a crime or cause criminal charges to be brought: Again, it is irrelevant whether the accusation is regarding a misdemeanor or felony or whether the person is ultimately convicted of a crime.
  5. Whether true or not, expose a secret or publicize an asserted fact: This act must subject the person to contempt or ridicule.
  6. Cause a strike or boycott against a person’s business: This section would not be applicable if the compulsion and threat of injurious boycott was to the benefit of the group whose interest you purport to be compelling for.
  7. Testify, provide information or withhold information with respect to that person’s legal claim: Fairly straightforward, this section speaks for itself.
  8. Abuse your position as a public servant: More specifically, to run afoul of this provision the abuse requires that your performance or failure to perform an act related to your work in a manner that adversely affects that person.
  9. Perform any act that would not in itself materially benefit you but is calculated to harm the person: The harm that you intend to cause must relate to the other person’s health, safety, business, career, finances, reputation or personal relationships.
Penalties and Punishment

A class “A” misdemeanor, if you find yourself on the wrong side of the law, one year in jail is on the proverbial table. If the conviction is in New York City – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx – the year is served on Rikers Island. Because imprisonment is not required by law, a judge can decide that probation, counseling, community service or other conditions best satisfy the subjective view of justice.

Potential Defenses

Examining the litany of means by which you can violate the law, it is fair to say there may be numerous defenses to a Coercion arrest beyond that which is prescribed by statute. Did you compel or induce the subject of a complaint to behave in a certain manner and if so, did you conduct fall within the parameters prescribed by law? As noted in the other degrees and sections defining and addressing these crimes, what evidence exists confirming your behavior? Eye witness accounts, private messages on Facebook, voicemails or other recordings? Evidence aside, how, if at all, can your attorney mitigate your conduct to either knock down the charge to a violation, ACD or dismissal?

Related Offenses and Collateral Issues

While crimes such as Aggravated Harassment, Stalking, Criminal Mischief and Assault may be charged alongside this offense it is critical to recognize that the First Degree felony crime, PL 135.65, shares the exact same element of inducing a person to act in a manner due to a threat of physical injury or damage to property. Why is this so important? Your misdemeanor conduct can potentially, and likely, be prosecuted as a class “D” felony.

Another concern or issues to address stems around the arrest, and more likely, the conviction of this or any crime. Simply, as a foreign national residing in the United States there may very well be ramifications to your immigration status including revocation of your visa and an inability to become a permanent resident or citizen. Moreover, if you are professional regulated by FINRA or other body, licenses and certifications are jeopardized. Whether you work for NYC, the MTA, or in the private sector, a conviction will adversely impact your career and job.

Examples and Hypotheticals

You are frustrated with a colleague. He is stealing your “thunder” at work. He is getting accolades while you are not. Whether because of jealousy or some other reason, you tell him that if he continues going to work functions, talking about his productivity at meetings and having lunch with your direct report, you will punish him for his “brown nosing.” The punishment is a promise to humiliate him at work by making up rumors and spreading both real and bogus secrets.

Another example is the typical bitter and jaded ex-girlfriend or boyfriend. If you continue dating your new love, you tell your ex, you will tell her new partner, her business associates and family members that she is promiscuous and has a venereal disease.

Your Defense, Your Case, Your Future

Be neither naïve nor cavalier. Know that if you are charged with any crime of Coercion, or you find yourself the target or victim of the same, there is no substitute for an advocate with the knowledge and experience you need to put an end to what is likely an unparalleled and traumatic experience. The former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC stand ready to put your interests first and bring about the closure you deserve. Your future now rests in your own hands to take that first step.

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

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