In order to understand criminal law in New York and how to properly defend
a criminal matter it is necessary that the accused and the
criminal defense lawyer both have a very good understanding of the different types of criminal
offenses in New York. This will help the
criminal defense lawyer explain the levels of offenses and the consequences of the offenses.
All criminal offenses in New York begin with the charges or the Accusatory
Instrument. In New York the Penal Law (criminal laws) and other laws differentiate
criminal offenses according to the level of punishment. In New York
criminal defense the three areas of offenses are
Misdemeanors and Petty Offenses.
The Felony is the most serious offense in New York State. It includes
crimes from murder to grand larceny. The levels of felonies in New York
range from A-1 felonies, the most serious, to Class "E" felonies.
The punishment for a plea or conviction to a felony can range from fines,
probation or a state prison sentence. A state prison sentence is served
in a New York state facility "upstate" for a term of over one year.
The Violent Felony--
The violent felony is defined by the penal law section 70.20(1). These
are specific types of crimes but do not necessarily have to involve a
violent act. With respect to sentencing a violent felony offense will
carry with it a determinate sentence (6 years) as opposed to an indeterminate
sentence (2 to 6 years).
The misdemeanors in New York are divided into class "A" misdemeanors
and class "B" misdemeanors. Class "A" misdemeanors
are the more serious crimes (ie. criminal possession of a controlled substance
in the seventh degree, assault in the third degree) and carry with it
a potential of up to one year in the local jail such as the county jail.
Unclassified Felony or Unclassified Misdemeanor--
If a crime is not identified by the New York state Penal Law then the
offense usually will be deemed "Unclassified". For example the
New York state DWI laws are under the Vehicle and Traffic law (VTL) and
therefore are unclassified. An unclassified Felony is treated as a class
"E" felony while a unclassified Misdemeanor is treated as a
class "A" misdemeanor for sentencing purposes.
A petty offense is the least serious offenses in New York state and include
violations and traffic offenses. A conviction for a petty offense is not
considered a criminal conviction. Punishment can include incarceration
(15 days) in the local jail but can also include fines, restitution, state
surcharges and/or community service. For example, disorderly conduct is
a penal law petty offense as is harassment in the second degree.
When charged with a petty offense alone fingerprints and photographs will
not be taken by the police department or state police and the accused
is not entitled to a jury trial. Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI)
(VTL 1192.1) is another example of a petty offense or a violation.
If the defendant is convicted of a petty offense the conviction is normally
sealed. If the original charge was more serious and the case was reduced
to a petty offense the matter will normally be sealed and any fingerprints
or photographs will be destroyed.
The criminal defense and the criminal defense attorney--
In New York it is important to understand the nature of the charge and
any potential sentence as a result of a criminal conviction. The top criminal
defense lawyers will review the charge with an accused to understand the
nature and the type of criminal matter. As it can be seen from the criminal
law blog, a Felony is very different from a Petty Offense.
All offenses have serious consequences for the accused or the convicted.
Consequences include employment consequences or driving license suspensions.
The best criminal defenses lawyers will explain the offense and any of
these collateral consequences.