What Are the Criminal Penalties for Protesting in New York?

Under normal circumstances, protesting is a constitutional right in New York and every other state. However, due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio made the controversial decision to ban the right “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Though the decision raises considerable concerns about upholding American civil liberties, many have chosen to continue peaceful (and in some cases, not so peaceful) protests in defiance of the order. Anyone participating in these protests may potentially be arrested and charged with a variety of crimes, including disorderly conduct. Below are some important facts related to the charge.

New York Disorderly Conduct Defined

Under Section 240.20 of New York Penal Law, disorderly conduct requires an intent by the charged individual to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, or to recklessly create such a risk. For purposes of the ban, the most likely behavior cited in an arrest would be a refusal to comply with a lawful police order to disperse when congregating in a public place. However, the crime of disorderly conduct also may include behavior such as:

  • Making unreasonable noise
  • Engaging in fighting or violent, tumultuous, or threatening behavior
  • Obstruction of either vehicular or pedestrian traffic
  • Using abusive or obscene language or making obscene gestures in a public place
  • Unlawfully disturbing any lawful assembly or meeting
  • Creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition by an act which serves no legitimate purpose.

Penalties

Though courts have a large amount of discretion in considering a penalty, disorderly conduct is a violation and must follow the maximum sentence permitted for violations in New York. This means disorderly conduct may be punished by no more than 15 days of incarceration or a fine of up to $250.

Defenses

Unfortunately, the constitutional rights to assembly and free speech are not a defense to a disorderly conduct charge. However, there are several defenses that may be applicable:

  • Infancy – generally individuals under 16 years of age are not criminally responsible for disorderly conduct
  • Duress – someone being forced to perform the conduct against their will
  • Mental defect or disease
  • Justification – the behavior charged as disorderly conduct was authorized by law or required to avoid imminent injury to either the public or to a private person

New York Criminal Defense Lawyer

Any time you’re arrested and charged with a crime is a cause for serious concern. However, the current social climate has made many people decide to risk arrest despite the ban on protesting in New York, so it’s important to understand the potential charges and consequences you may face. If you end up with charge for the violation of disorderly conduct or any other crime, it’s critical that you have someone like the experienced criminal defense attorneys at MOWK Law by your side to try to secure the best possible outcome with regard to your situation. Contact us today to learn more, have your questions answered, and give yourself as much protection as possible. 

What’s the Difference Between a Violation, Misdemeanor, and Felony in New York?

New York’s criminal laws have been undergoing drastic changes in recent years, so it’s understandable that most people are not familiar with the current criminal justice system and classification of crimes for adults. Knowing the differences between offenses can help determine a lot of life-changing things like whether they must be disclosed to potential employers or if conviction results in a permanent criminal record. Here are some general differences between violations, misdemeanors and felonies. Under New York law, they are all considered “offenses,” but are distinct categories under the penal code.

New York Criminal Violations (or Infractions)

A violation is an offense other than a traffic infraction that carries a maximum possible punishment of 15 days in jail. Even though you can be taken into custody by law enforcement and held, violations are not considered crimes. This means that even if you are convicted of a violation, after disposition you won’t have a permanent criminal record. In many cases, this can save you from mandatory disclosure on employment applications or background checks.

For example, you might be taken into custody for disorderly conduct and then released after calming down. You’ll likely receive an appearance ticket to show up to court and handle fines or other issues related to the violation, but once this is done you have no further actions to take or consequences to face.

New York Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors are usually considered low-level offenses, and the maximum possible sentence for a conviction is one year in jail. Misdemeanors can be divided into Class A and Class B misdemeanors or unclassified. A top New York defense attorney can try to have Class A misdemeanors reduced to Class B misdemeanors to reduce the possible punishments.

Class A misdemeanors are more serious, and convictions can result in up to 3 years on probation or one year in jail, with a possible fine of up to $1,000. Class B misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of three months or a year of probation, and the maximum fine is $500.

New York Felonies

Felony charges are filed for the most serious crimes like robbery and murder and sentences can range from at least one year in prison to a life sentence depending on the crime. Felonies are classified from most to least serious in this order: A-I, A-II, B, C, D, and E. Defense attorneys will often try to have a more serious felony charge reduced to a lesser class of offense or to a misdemeanor.

New York Criminal Defense Lawyer

Being charged with a crime is a serious concern for anyone, but it’s important to know the structure the criminal justice system uses to classify crimes in order to understand the consequences and possible options for negotiation and plea deals. Whether you are facing a violation or more serious crime, it’s important you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side to try to secure the best possible outcome for your situation. Contact the experienced team at MOWK Law to have your questions answered and learn about your options today.

What Would a Change to New York’s 50-a Law Mean?

Now that New York’s Senate is under the control of Democrats, the state’s controversial 50-a law is being looked at with an eye towards revision or repeal. This could mean sweeping changes surrounding misconduct involving the police and other corrections personnel.

What is 50-a?

In the New York Civil Rights Law, section 50-a declares that police officer, firefighter, and corrections officer “personnel records” are confidential and not subject to inspection or review unless the officer gives their permission. Though it was passed to protect personal information of officers who testified in court and prevent harassment by defense attorneys. State courts have created precedent permitting police to conceal almost all records from the public and allowing officers to escape transparency standards other public officials must obey.

Initially, the law only protected off-duty misconduct records such as illegal activities performed off the clock. However, appellate court decisions have expanded the protections of 50-a to include records of police misconduct on duty, such as assaulting civilians while conducting a routine traffic stop or search.

Why Is the Law Being Reviewed?

Though the law has been on the books since the 1970s, the law began receiving more public scrutiny since 2014, when notorious and highly publicized incidents of police violence brought national attention to criminal justice reform. The New York Police Department has cited 50-a numerous times when it has refused to disclose the history of Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s disciplinary actions– the officer responsible for choking Eric Garner to death in Staten Island. His internal NYPD trial is ongoing, but a leaked record of his history of complaints revealed he was the subject of several substantiated complaints for abusive stops and searches of individuals.

What Proposals Are Being Considered?

Though the options of 50-a’s reform or repeal are on the table, the New York City Council is debating a set of bills meant to curtail the city’s broad interpretation of the 50-a law. These bills would require:

  • The NYPD provide prosecutors access to disciplinary records within 24 hours of a request
  • District Attorneys offices provide a breakdown of the number of cases they prosecute and decline to prosecute
  • The NYPD make public their departmental guidelines for discipline, the number of officers disciplined annually, and information on individual cases of misconduct. Currently the Council may obtain information on those cases but cannot public individual proceeding details
  • Reports from the NYPD on how each precinct handles walk-in misconduct complaints
  • Data from the NYPD on second-degree assault, resisting arrest, and obstructing governmental administration arrests

Currently, however, only state legislators can dismantle or reform the 50-a exemptions. The police union, however, has been donating heavily to state politicians in an effort to prevent changes to or a repeal of the law. The legislature has until June 19 to figure out details on the bill before the legislative session ends.

New York Criminal Defense Lawyer

Everyone wants to believe the police will do their duty to protect and serve, but when they fall short of that standard it’s important you have an experienced New York criminal defense attorney by your side to fight for your rights. Contact the experienced team at MOWK Law to have your questions answered and learn about your options today.

Woman Contemplating

How Does an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal Work in New York City?

In some New York City misdemeanor cases, criminal defense attorneys are able to achieve the Holy Grail of negotiated settlements to keep their clients from pleading guilty to a crime. An Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (“ACD”) gives a criminal defendant with little or no criminal history the benefit of the court and prosecutor’s doubt regarding the charges filed against them. When an ACD happens, a judge agrees to adjourn your case for a period of time, usually 6 months (or, when marijuana charges are involved, a year). During that time frame you don’t have to do anything except keep from committing any new crimes. In a normal ACD, that means you don’t have to:

  • Pay a fine
  • Admit any guilt
  • Say anything except agree to the ACD.

If you follow the requirements of your ACD, once the 6 month or 1 year time period goes by, your case is dismissed and will be sealed by the court– which means the case will not show up on most background and criminal record checks by employers and others.

What Is an ACD?

An ACD isn’t a plea, conviction, or admission of wrongdoing. It’s also not a period where you’re placed on probation. The criminal justice system doesn’t distinguish between the dismissal following a not guilty trial verdict and the one after an ACD dismissal – the timing is main difference between the two dismissals. A not guilty verdict after a trial instantly dismisses a criminal case, but with ACDs you have to wait six months or a year for dismissal. However, many times it’s quicker to receive an ACD dismissal because the preparation leading up to trial and a criminal trial can take even longer.

When Would I Not Want to Take an ACD?

Even though an ACD is an excellent option for many criminal defendants, in certain situations it’s worth considering other options. Some employers and immigration agencies don’t understand what an ACD really means so one on your criminal record might cause confusion. This means that sometimes pleading guilty to disorderly conduct or another simple violation offense may a better choice. For example, if your job requires extensive background checks or security clearance checks, if you are preparing to be licensed by an agency like the State Bar of New York, or if you are not a United States citizen it would be wise to ask a criminal defense attorney what possible consequences an ACD might have on your life and make the best choice for you.

What About ACDs with Qualifications?

Though most ACDs require a defendant to do nothing, sometimes they are only offered with certain conditions. Because it’s not a guilty plea, a defendant can’t be sentenced to a punishment like jail time or paying fines. However, community service isn’t considered a punishment so you may still be asked to perform community service in exchange for the court offering you an ACD. Your ACD may also be conditioned on paying restitution to someone you’ve injured. However, neither community service nor restitution are an admission of your guilt.

New York Criminal Defense Lawyer

Being charged with a crime is a serious concern for anyone; it’s important to take advantage of opportunities to settle your case without creating a criminal record for yourself when possible.  If you are facing a potential misdemeanor charge, it’s important you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side to try to secure an ACD or other favorable result on your behalf. Contact the experienced team at MOWK Law to have your questions answered and learn about your options today.

What Do I Need to Know about Parole Revocation in New York City?

In New York, after a person has served their mandated sentence of incarceration and are released from prison, they are on parole, or Post Release Supervision. The parolee is placed under a parole officer’s supervision and required to abide by certain rules and conditions to avoid being sent back to prison through a process called parole revocation.

When Is a Parolee Eligible for Arrest?

If there is reasonable cause for a parole officer to think a parolee violated one or multiple of their conditions of release, a warrant may issue which will remain active during the violation process. If the parolee is taken into custody they will be held without bail. Within three days of the warrant issuing, a Notice of Violation will be given to the parolee along with a list of alleged violations in a Violation of Release Report.

            What Constitutes a Parole Violation?

A parolee can violate their parole for any new criminal charge whether or not a conviction occurs. A conviction may result in violation in addition to any other criminal penalties from the new charge. Violating any condition of parole, known as a technical violation, may also result in a parolee violating their parole. Common technical violations include:

  • Drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs;
  • Leaving the state or moving without permission;
  • Associating with known criminals; and
  • Failing to adhere to curfew.

Parole Revocation Hearings

Within fifteen days of the warrant issuing, a parolee is entitled to a Preliminary Hearing, held by a Preliminary Hearing Officer, to determine if probable cause exists to believe the parolee violated a condition of release. This may mean evidence and testimony must be presented by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to demonstrate a violation occurred. If there is no finding of probable cause, parole is not revoked the parolee’s warrant is lifted and they return to Post Release Supervision. If there is a finding of probable cause, a Final Hearing occurs. No Preliminary Hearing occurs if a parolee is convicted of a misdemeanor, and if a parolee is convicted of a felony and receives a prison sentence their supervision is revoked and no hearings occur. If a felony conviction doesn’t result in a prison sentence, a Final Hearing occurs.

A final hearing involves a parolee, represented by an attorney, and the DOCCS, represented by a Parole Revocation Specialist. Both sides may examine witnesses and present evidence. The hearing will result in a determination by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that the charges are or are not sustained.

If the charges are sustained and a parole violation is found, penalties may include a diversion program at a drug treatment center or an imposition of an additional term of incarceration. The additional term of incarceration may be determined by the ALJ, the Board of Parole, or a term prescribed by the category of the parolee’s violation.  

New York Criminal Defense Lawyer

Parole revocation is one of the most serious concerns for anyone who has been convicted of a crime and served their time. If you are facing a potential parole violation, it’s important you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side to fight for you. Contact the experienced team at MOWK Law to have your questions answered today.

foot ankle monitor

Does A New York Defendant Have to Pay for their Court-Ordered Monitoring System?

Sometimes in a criminal case, a court will craft alternative orders that require defendants to submit to electronic monitoring as an alternative to incarceration or a term of probation. This is often the case with defendants facing New York DWI and drug charges. These monitoring systems are not free and courts may order defendants to bear the financial burden associated with them. However, what happens when a defendant can no longer pay for cost?

A New York appellate court weighed in when a defendant appealed a jail term imposed on a lower court’s finding that he violated his probation. The defendant was convicted of a felony DWI and misdemeanor aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. He was sentenced to a jail term, followed by probation. One condition of defendant’s probation was a requirement he wears and pays for a monitoring bracelet to confirm his abstinence from alcohol. The defendant stopped making payments after he claimed he lacked the finances to continue due to an injury that prevented him from working. The court found the defendant in violation of his probation and issued the jail sentence, which defendant appealed on the grounds the court had no authority to require he pay for the bracelet.

Sentencing Court Authority

The appellate court noted sentencing courts have broad discretion in imposing conditions “reasonably necessary to ensure that the defendant will lead a law-abiding life or to assist him to do so.” Probation may be ordered by a trial judge who determines close supervision rather than additional incarceration better serves the defendant and the public, so the court held costs of probation are permissible as they are “part and parcel of satisfaction of the condition itself” and help ensure the safety of both defendant and society during the term of probation.

Because of this broad grant of authority to New York’s sentencing courts, they held it was a permissible condition of probation to require the defendant to pay for the alcohol monitoring bracelet. The appellate court noted that the harms the sentencing court sought to avoid when imposing the condition “dwarfed” any punitive effect created by requiring defendant to pay for the bracelet. Failure to hold otherwise would consequently mean many courts would no longer view release into the community as a viable alternative to incarceration.

Court Procedure

The court did, however, note that even though the defendant could be required to assume financial responsibility for completing terms of their probation, there were certain procedures a court should follow before finding them in violation of certain conditions. In this case, before holding the defendant in violation for failing to pay fees associated with the alcohol monitoring bracelet, the court should hold a hearing to determine whether a defendant could demonstrate a bona fide inability to pay costs associated with that particular condition. If so, the court must attempt to fashion a reasonable alternative to incarceration. If, however, the sentencing court determines that the defendant had an ability to pay and willfully refused to do so then ruling in favor of a probation violation and subsequent revocation is an appropriate outcome.

New York Criminal Defense Lawyer

Have you been charged with a crime and looking for the best New York criminal defense lawyer? While best is a relative term, our talented team of lawyers at MOWK Law will aggressively fight for you. Get in touch with us today to learn more.

Brian Wagner of Mcloughlin O’Hara Wagner & Kendall LLP LIVE on LI in the AM w/ Jay Oliver! 4-3-19

Listen to MOWK Law partner Brian Wagner on LI in the AM with Jay Oliver discuss some of the latest cases making the news including: Chanel Lewis homicide conviction, delays in the obstruction of justice trials of Thomas Spota and Christopher McPartland and a discussion around the criminal intent behind the parents involved in the Operation Varsity Blues cases.

Click Here to listen to the broadcast.