Unlawful Imprisonment in New York
What is Unlawful imprisonment?
Unlawful imprisonment refers to constraining another individual in such a way that the individual is in danger of sustaining serious harm.
Domestic examples might include locking a teenager in their room with no air conditioning on a hot summer day with no access to water. Similarly, leaving a child in a hot car in a parking lot on a warm day with no air conditioning can be considered unlawful imprisonment and worse.
Law enforcement examples might include holding a person who has been arrested handcuffed in the back of a police car on a freezing winter evening with the doors open and no heat on for an extended period of time. Other examples include leaving a suspect locked in a caged pen with police dogs who are trained to attack or detaining a suspect in a car that is left in the middle of a busy highway while the suspect is processed.
What law defines Unlawful imprisonment in New York?
Under New York State law, Article 135 of the Penal Code defines unlawful imprisonment and related offenses. Section 135.10 defines unlawful imprisonment in the first degree, a class E felony, as the illegal detainment of another person in a situation which places that person in serious risk of injury.
Unlawful Imprisonment in the First Degree
Taking a closer look at Section 135.10 details the elements of the defined crime that must be proven in order for prosecutors to secure a conviction. Let’s review the text of the law, its precise language, and what it means in practice.
A person is guilty of unlawful imprisonment in the first degree when he restrains another person under circumstances which expose the latter to a risk of serious physical injury.
Unlawful imprisonment in the first degree is a class E felony.
- The first element that must be proven is the restraint of another person. If the person is free to leave, then there is no imprisonment, unlawful or otherwise.
- Next, the statute requires that the person be held in dangerous circumstances that threaten serious harm. If the person is restrained, but not subject to dangerous circumstances, culpability under this particular provision may be limited as a matter of degree.
Unlawful Imprisonment in the Second Degree
Section 135.05 defines unlawful imprisonment in the second degree, a class A misdemeanor.
Taking a closer look at Section 135.05 details the elements of the defined crime that must be proven in order for prosecutors to secure a conviction. Let’s consider the text of the law, its precise language, and what it means.
A person is guilty of unlawful imprisonment in the second degree when he restrains another person. Unlawful imprisonment in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.
To secure a conviction under this statute, prosecutors must prove that the defendant constrained another individual. Again, if the individual is free to leave, there is no restraint. This might include preventing a significant other from leaving a shared home.
What are some related crimes?
Coercion in the Third Degree
Section 135.60 defines coercion in the third degree, a class A misdemeanor, as forcing an individual to perform activities that the individual has the legal right to refuse, or join a group, organization, or criminal enterprise, by causing fear in the individual that refusal will result in harm to the individual.
A person is guilty of coercion in the third degree when he or she compels or induces a person to engage in conduct which the latter has a legal right to abstain from engaging in, or to abstain from engaging in conduct in which he or she has a legal right to engage, or compels or induces a person to join a group, organization or criminal enterprise which such latter person has a right to abstain from joining, by means of instilling in him or her a fear that, if the demand is not complied with, the actor or another will:
- Cause physical injury to a person; or
- Cause damage to property; or
- Engage in other conduct constituting a crime; or
- Accuse someone of a crime or cause criminal charges to be instituted against him or her; or
- Expose a secret or publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject someone to hatred, contempt or ridicule; or
- Cause a strike, boycott or other collective labor group action injurious to some person’s business; except that such a threat shall not be deemed coercive when the act or omission compelled is for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act; or
- Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another’s legal claim or defense; or
- Use or abuse his or her position as a public servant by performing some act within or related to his or her official duties, or by failing or refusing to perform an official duty, in such manner as to affect some person adversely; or
- Perform any other act which would not in itself materially benefit the actor but which is calculated to harm another person materially with respect to his or her health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships.
Coercion in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.
Taking a closer look at Section 136.60 details the elements of the defined crime that must be proven in order for prosecutors to secure a conviction. Let’s consider the text of the law, its precise language, and what it means.
- First, a defendant must force an individual to behave in a manner that the individual has a legal right to decline. So, compelling an individual to work in a dangerous job they do not want to do may constitute coercion.
- Next, coercion can also encompass, forcing an individual to decline behavior that the individual has a legal right to accept. For example, forcing an individual not to drive even though they are properly licensed, and a capable driver may constitute coercion.
In addition, coercion can include making an individual join a group, organization, or criminal enterprise which the individual has the legal right to decline, by using fear to cause the individual to believe that not joining will result in the following harm:
- Physical injury; or
- Property damage; or
- Other crimes; or
- Accuse an individual of a crime; or
- Spreading secret information, true or not, that is meant to inspire others to hate or mock the individual; or
- Initiate a collective labor group action that hurts an individual’s business, except that such threats will not be considered coercive if the forced act or omission is for the good of the group in whose interest the person purports to act; or
- Testify or not testify regarding another’s legal claim; or
- Abusing an office of public trust to cause the individual harm; or
- Engage in any other behavior which does not materially benefit the defendant but is intended to materially harm another individual’s health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation, or personal relationships.
Note the word “or” in-between each form of harm. This means that any single form of harm satisfies this element of the provision; it does not require all of them.
Coercion in the Second Degree
Section 135.61 defines coercion in the second degree, a class E felony, as committing coercion in the third degree as described above, and causes an individual to engage in sexual activity as defined in section 130 of the penal code.
Taking a closer look at Section 135.61 details the elements of the defined crime that must be proven in order for prosecutors to secure a conviction. Let’s consider the text of the law, its precise language, and what it means.
A person is guilty of coercion in the second degree when he or she commits the crime of coercion in the third degree as defined in section 135.60 of this article and thereby compels or induces a person to engage in sexual intercourse, oral sexual conduct or anal sexual conduct as such terms are defined in section 130 of the penal law.
Coercion in the second degree is a class E felony.
- The first element that must be proven in the above statute for prosecutors to secure a conviction is that the defendant must have previously been convicted or coercion in the third degree. If there is no such conviction, culpability under this state will likely be precluded.
- Next, the conduct that obtained the individual the conviction for coercion in the third degree must induce an individual to engage in sexual activity. Without this element, legal liability under this particular law will likely be limited.
Coercion in the First Degree
Section 135.65 defines coercion in the first degree, a class D felony, as committing coercion in the second degree as described above, and causes fear in the victim of physical injury or property damage, or if the defendant compels the victim to commit or attempt to commit a felony or injury to another person, or to violate his or her duty in a position of public trust.
Taking a closer look at Section 136.65 details the elements of the defined crime that must be proven in order for prosecutors to secure a conviction. Let’s consider the text of the law, its precise language, and what it means.
A person is guilty of coercion in the first degree when he or she commits the crime of coercion in the second degree, and when:
- He or she commits such crime by instilling in the victim a fear that he or she will cause physical injury to a person or cause damage to property; or
- He or she thereby compels or induces the victim to:
- Commit or attempt to commit a felony; or
- Cause or attempt to cause physical injury to a person; or
(c) Violate his or her duty as a public servant.
Coercion in the first degree is a class D felony.
- The first element requires that the defendant be guilty of coercion in the second degree. Without this prior conviction, prosecutors are unlikely to secure a conviction under this particular statute.
In addition, the defendant must have created a fear in the victim of physical injury or property damage that causes them to commit or attempt or attempt to commit a felony. If the victim does not experience fear of physical harm or property damage, the case for liability under this law may be weakened, although other forms of fear may suffice.
The statute requires that the victim’s fear causes he or she to commit or attempt to commit a felony, cause or attempt to cause physical injury to a person or violate his or her position of public trust. If the victim’s fear cannot be proven as the cause for any of these actions, then the defendant’s legal exposure under this provision may be difficult to prove. Note that if the victim’s fear causes he or she to commit a misdemeanor merely, that may hamper conviction of the defendant under this provision.
- The victim may or may not be a public servant, so this element requires proof that the victim is or was a public servant at the time of the incident, and that he or she violated that position as a result of fear instilled by the defendant.
Note that these causal links can be very difficult to prove and may present significant hurdles to securing convictions under this statute.
What are the statutory penalties if you are convicted of this crime?
Keep in mind that each of the above offenses is classified by their severity and sentencing varies accordingly. Felonies are generally more serious than misdemeanors, and a Class A charge is typically more serious than a Class B charge.
New York’s sentencing statutes spell out the possible sentence for each category, which ranges from no prison time to life sentences. When judges set sentences for a defendant, certain factors may be considered, including prior convictions, persistent offender status, and youthful offender status.
A Class A misdemeanor is an offense other than a traffic violation, that carries a sentence of a prison term anywhere from 15 days to one year. The sentence for a Class D non-violent felony can range from no prison time, probation, or a prison term of one to seven years. A Class E violent or non-violent felony carries a sentence that varies between no prison time to a four-year prison term.
What are some of the additional consequences of being convicted?
Regardless of the sentence given by a court, a conviction may cost additional consequences.
- Professional consequences can include loss of licenses, reputational damage and financial costs to associated companies.
- A conviction may also make finding a job or housing more difficult, and require a fight in court that may be costly, both personally and financially.
- Convictions may appear in all manner of routine background checks for things as innocuous as opening a bank account or credit card. It’s essential to take all possible action to avoid a conviction to protect your future opportunities, as well as your family’s.
If you think about how many times you fill out forms that ask whether you’ve ever – ever – been convicted of a felony, the import of doing all that you possibly can to avoid such a conviction becomes clear; In addition, felony convictions can have disruptive effects on your voting rights.
Consider that conviction for the unlawful imprisonment or coercion charges discussed above may present additional problems due to the fact that they can tend to involve perpetrating physical harm to another person.
- Many employers will not consider making a hire with a conviction with this nature.
- In addition, to the extent that there are any sexual assault charges lodged in association with the above charges, the defendant may be placed on the sexual offender registry, which restricts many activities, including where the defendant can work and live.
- It’s also unlikely that an apartment complex that conducts criminal background checks will offer a unit to an individual with this type of conviction. Organizations will be mindful of any liability they will face if another incident occurs and it can be shown that the owner of the organization knew in advance that a person with a record of causing physical injury or engaging in the sexual assault was placed on the premises.
These additional consequences make it especially important that you get effective counsel as soon as possible to avoid as much in the way of charges as possible. There are not many organizations that will allow an individual with a track record of causing physical harm to become part of their community, so an aggressive defense is called for here to secure your future opportunities.
What are some defenses to Unlawful IMPRISONMENT IN New York?
There are powerful tools you and your attorney can use to fight charges in court. An affirmative defense is spelled out in the criminal statute. To successfully win with an affirmative defense, the defendant has the burden to prove that the defense is available to them, by a preponderance of the evidence. When non-affirmative defenses are raised, the burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defense does not apply to the defendant.
- Defenses that may be available to the charges described above include justification, which is essentially a claim that the conduct was necessary because an emergency situation developed such that the conduct was justified to prevent immediate public or private injury, which emergency developed by no fault of the defendant.
The justification defense reflects the recognition that there are times when circumstances emerge to create a situation in which a defendant may not realistically have full control over their options.
- Infancy may be another available defense. This defense is available to those under 18 years of age as a means to potentially shield them from criminal liability. This defense depends heavily on the circumstances of the case and specific facts as minors are not automatically relieved of responsibility for their actions.
This defense reflects the general policy that minors may lack the understanding to know how their actions are wrong, or illegal. It also considers that courts may take a different approach to minors so as to minimize damage to their future options if the crime is sufficiently minor.
- Duress may be an effective defense as well. The presence of duress may remove responsibility for the commission of a crime as the defendant’s actions may not be their own.
In terms of mounting an effective defense, note that many statutes require that the defendant knew about the problematic actions. Proving this can be difficult as it can be seen as trying to “read minds.” While the defendant’s knowing may be explicitly stated or otherwise determined, it can be quite elusive to establish without an explicit statement by the defendant.
This may be a defense angle worth raising with your attorney and exploring how you can prevent prosecutors from proving this requirement. An experienced and effective criminal defense attorney should be able to work with you on establishing doubt regarding this element.
Help is Available
Facing any of the charges discussed above requires the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney who can help you navigate the various processes involved in the legal process. These are particularly serious charges as they carry especially harmful consequences beyond the legal ramifications.
It’s crucial to engage an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to ensure your rights are protected, and your case receives the best outcome possible. In addition to having knowledge of the law itself, lawyers are often familiar with judges in their area and know their varying attitudes and demeanors. This can help the lawyer craft their strategy in such a way that would most appeal to the assigned judge’s personality.
Eliminating or minimizing any charges or sentencing is possible and well worth placing the call. Contact us to review your situation with an experienced legal professional who can help you take charge of your situation and guide your way forward.