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NY Police Officer Attorney

When a New York City corrections officer is accused of misconduct, you need a lawyer for two reasons: for defense in a civil service disciplinary hearing to protect your job and for defense against criminal charges to protect your freedom. You need to win both cases to return your life to normal, and because the outcome of one will affect the other, a coordinated defense strategy is strongly recommended.

Criminal Charges Affecting NYC Corrections Officers

As an example of criminal charges that NYC COs may face, we will use an actual case reported in May 2019. Six COs are accused of conducting illegal strip searches at the Manhattan Detention Complex. In their defense, more than 50 visitors were arrested in 2018 for bringing in prohibited items such as drugs and razors. However, a similar number of visitors have alleged that they were sexually abused by COs during unlawful strip searches. These searches violated Department of Correction policy which requires written consent prior to a search and then only allows “pat frisk” searches.

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Queens criminal defense attorney bail reform“Innocent until proven guilty” can feel like a sham when thousands of accused-but-unconvicted defendants languish in New York jails for lack of a few hundred dollars to make bail. Shockingly, 72% of people arrested in New York City end up at Rikers Island for at least a day because they cannot raise the necessary cash bail fast enough, even for a misdemeanor crime such as drug possession or assault

The state of New York appears ready to address this injustice in 2019. A task force created by the New York State Unified Court System spent over a year discussing the issue and published its final report in February 2019. This report largely agrees with the latest drafts of bail reform legislation coming out of Albany. The likely changes include:

  • More offenses should be designated for police issuance of an appearance ticket rather than an arrest.
  • People accused of misdemeanor and some non-violent felony crimes should be released without cash bail, either on their own recognizance or with the least restrictive non-monetary conditions necessary to ensure their appearance in court. 
  • However, courts should be able to deny release if the defendant currently poses a credible threat to the physical safety of an identifiable person or group.
  • State law should specify a limited list of crimes for which a defendant may be held in pre-trial custody, if the prosecutor makes a case for it.
  • Judges’ use of electronic monitoring in place of jail detention should be subject to specific guidelines set out in state law.

New York City has already taken action over the past four years to reduce its jail population rather than wait for state-level reform. NYC now offers a program known as “supervised release,” a partnership with nonprofit groups that will help evaluate defendants and allow social workers to maintain contact with assigned defendants. Of the first 10,000 people who qualified for supervised release, 87% attended all of their court dates.

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Brooklyn assault charge defense attorneyIf you have been arrested on assault charges in New York City, you could be facing either a misdemeanor conviction for Third Degree Assault or a felony conviction for First or Second Degree Assault (NYPL 120.00 to 120.10). With the help of a good defense lawyer and some creative thinking, however, you may be able to beat these charges.

Here are five possible defense strategies to discuss with your criminal defense attorney:

  1. Lack of physical injury. If you can show that the victim exaggerated the effect of the assault and suffered no injury all, you may be able to have the charges dismissed. 
  2. Lack of serious physical injury. If you can show that the victim suffered only the most minor of injuries, your attorney may be able to get a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor. A felony charge requires serious physical injury or, in the alternative, some kind of special circumstance, such as the use of a dangerous weapon. “Serious physical injury” means protracted impairment of health or of any bodily organ, or serious protracted disfigurement, or an injury that creates a substantial risk of death (NY Penal Law 10.00). 
  3. Lack of intent. For a felony assault charge to stick, you must have had intent to cause injury to the victim. If you can show that you did not have that intent, and this can be demonstrated through the corroboration of witnesses, you may be able to avoid a conviction. For misdemeanor assault, you must have caused injury by intent, recklessness, or criminal negligence. Again, if you can convincingly describe the encounter as accidental or unintentional, you may be able to avoid being convicted.
  4. Inaccurate identification. When a fight breaks out in a crowd, and multiple people are throwing punches, a victim may incorrectly identify the person who actually hit them. Your attorney may be able to find witnesses or video recordings that prove that someone else was the person who actually injured the victim.
  5. Lying victim. Completely false accusations are not unheard of. For example, one spouse might try to get the upper hand in a bitter divorce dispute by claiming that they or their children were assaulted by the other spouse. In one case which our attorneys successfully defended, the person making accusations of assault said he was attacked by the defendant, but the defendant claimed self-defense. Security video recordings proved that the man claiming to be the victim had actually been lying in wait to ambush the defendant. 

As you can see, there are a variety of ways to construct a defense when you have been charged with assault. A savvy criminal defense attorney will carefully examine the evidence in your case and recommend the best approach for your unique circumstances.

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Manhattan criminal defense attorney assaultIn response to numerous assaults committed with ceramic blades by inmates at Rikers Island, local correctional facilities in the state of New York may again use low-dose ionizing radiation body scanners to search inmates for weapons, effective January 30, 2019.

These body scanners, which use the same type of radiation as medical X-ray machines but at lower doses, are able to detect small weapons such as ceramic blades that do not set off metal detectors. Prior to 2015, some New York corrections facilities used X-ray scanners to screen inmates for weapons. The practice was halted in 2015 due to the health risk posed by exposure to radiation.  

After weighing the risk of low-dose radiation exposure against the risk posed by undetected weapons in corrections facilities, New York state legislators decided in favor of allowing X-ray screening of inmates. They were swayed by reports of assaults in which inmates wielding ceramic blades caused severe slashing injuries to other inmates or corrections officers. In New York City alone, over 100 such assaults were reported in 2017, including 11 incidents in which a corrections officer was stabbed, slashed, or cut. 

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