As per New York Penal Law section 120.18, the crime of menacing a police officer is punishable as a class D felony. A person can be charged with the crime if he or she intentionally “places or attempts to place a police officer or peace officer in reasonable fear of injury, serious personal injury or death by displaying a deadly weapon, pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun or other firearm or other firearm, whether operable or not, where such officer was in the course of performing his or her official duties and the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that such victim was a police officer or peace officer.”
There’s no statutory requirement that a person must actually harm a police or peace officer. In fact, there’s no requirement that actual physical contact must be made. Causing a police or peace officer to have imminent apprehension of bodily harm or death while in the course of their official duties is sufficient.
For example, a purse snatcher knocks down an elderly lady and steals her purse. A uniformed police officer in an unmarked car witnesses the attack. He gets out of his car and gives chase. He yells at the snatcher ahead of him that he’s a police officer, and he commands him to stop. Yes, the snatcher stops, but he brandishes an unloaded gun. Under those circumstances, it’s perfectly reasonable for the police officer to have an imminent apprehension of bodily hard or death. Regardless of whether the gun was loaded or unloaded, the purse snatcher is likely to be found guilty of menacing a police officer.
How should the snatcher know he was being chased by the police?
In our example, the officer involved in the chase identified himself as a police officer, and he was in full uniform. If he wasn’t in uniform, and he failed to identify himself as a police officer, the snatcher might have a viable defense on the menacing charge. Standard New York jury instructions look as to whether “in the same circumstances, a reasonable person in the same position and possessing the same knowledge, would have known that such intended victim was” a police officer or peace officer.
In the course of official duties
A police officer might be off duty but still carrying a badge and a weapon. Had the officer identified himself to the snatcher as a police officer and flashed a badge, it would likely be determined that he was acting in the course of his duties.
The class D felony
New York classifies menacing a police officer as a violent crime. On that basis, the maximum penalty for a violent class D felony in the State of New York is seven years in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of two years. Much of a judge’s sentencing discretion in that range depends on whether the individual who was convicted has a prior criminal history.
Under the circumstances of this case, the snatcher would probably be facing several felony charges, and an NYC criminal lawyer will be needed. It’s also possible that the snatcher will be followed for life with a felony conviction for a violent crime. There might be sentencing alternatives available to avoid prison and a conviction for a violent felony. We have vast experience in defending these types of cases. Don’t give the police any type of statement or confession. Talk with us first by calling 888-608-3420 for a free consultation. We’re available 24 hours a day, and we treat each case as if it’s the most important case in the courthouse. Your case certainly is for you.