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New York Penal Law 145.20: Criminal Tampering in the First Degree

By Spodek Law Group | May 3, 2017
(Last Updated On: February 25, 2023)

There are some types of services that are available to the public and are absolutely essential. That means that if there is some sort of disruption in those services, it could have negative effects that can truly be devastating. A good example is a blackout, which can make it difficult for people to perform their normal daily activities, interfere with businesses and lead to financial losses and disrupt the normal operations of a hospital. In most cases, a loss of services that is very widespread occurs as a result of adverse weather, technical issues or even human error. However, other times, it can happen due to deliberate tampering. As per the New York penal law 145.20, it is illegal to willfully cause such a disruption of services.

Types of Businesses Typically Affected by Disruption of Services

Interfering or tampering with the services of the following types of businesses is illegal and can lead to a charge of criminal tampering in the first degree:

• Gas
• Electric
• Sewer
• Steam or water works
• Telephone or telegraph
• Common carrier
• Nuclear powered electric generated facility
• Public utility operated by a district or municipality

Example of Criminal Tampering in the First Degree Under New York Penal Law 145.20

An example of tampering in the first degree under the New York Penal Law 145.20 is that a man was an employee for an electric company for many years. However, due to wanting to reorganize and increase efficiency, the company laid him off, along with around 50 other employees. The man is naturally angry about being let go and decides to “get even.” On his very last day of work, he turns 30 knobs on a group of transformers to the open position, knowing that it would cause major damage. His actions lead to energy being drained from the transformers and a large portion of the city suffers a blackout. Around 100,000 businesses and homes have no power for approximately five to six hours. The actions of the man could see him being charged with and prosecuted for criminal tampering in the first degree.

Possible Defenses for Criminal Tampering in the First Degree

If you performed a certain action or actions that resulted in the interruption of important services but did them by accident, you would not be charged and convicted of criminal tampering. This is because there must be intent behind the actions to be considered a criminal act. The statute also applies only to certain types of companies, which means that if you performed actions to interfere in services at one that doesn’t fall under the category, the statute would not apply. For instance, if you were accused of tampering with cable TV services that resulted in an outage, your NYC criminal lawyer could argue a defense against a charge of criminal tampering in the first degree.

Penalties and Sentences for Criminal Tampering in the First Degree

The crime of criminal tampering in the first degree is considered to be a class D felony. That means that if you are convicted of the crime, you may face as long as seven years in prison. In addition, criminal tampering in the first degree also carries the penalty of a fine. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, the judge may choose to give you a sentence of probation for five years instead of a stay in prison.

New York Penal Law 145.15: Criminal Tampering in the Second Degree

Public utilities and various other types of services governed by a company are off limits to most people. Tampering with them or trying to gain access to them without permission is simply not allowed. New York Code 145.15 deal specifically with this violation of the law. If you are accused with tampering with electric, gas, water, or sewer lines you could be charged with criminal tampering in the second degree

An Explanation of Criminal Tampering in the Second Degree in New York

Criminal tampering is generally taken to refer to an individual that attempts to alter or make an illegal connection with the following types of companies or public utility lines: Gas, electric, sewer, steam, water works, telephone, telegraph, a common carrier, a nuclear powered electric generating facility, or a public utility that is financed and operated by a local municipality or district. Many people might decide to tamper with such lines in order to gain free or cheap access to necessary utilities throughout the New York area. Now only does this compromise the integrity and safety of the overall system, it also contributes to decreased revenue for the city. As such, criminal tampering the second degree in New York is a serious charge. While it is a class A misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to up to one year in jail, while a probation term of 3 years is also possible. Because of this, you need to retain the services of a NYC criminal attorney right away upon being charged with this crime.

Example of Criminal Tampering in the Second Degree

There have been cases throughout New York where an electric power company found jumper cables in the meter box of various residents. Because of the jumper cables, an estimated 10 percent of the total electric flowing to the home actually bypassed the meter altogether. Because of this, the resident enjoys a reduced power bill as a result of the jumper cables being present, which is a direct affront to the integrity of the entire electrical system in New York. Once discovered, the individual could face a charge of criminal tampering in the second degree. Other charges, such as theft of services and petit larceny are possible as well. Again, as soon as you are charged with such a crime it is important to consult with a NYC criminal attorney. You have rights and they need to be protected through the process.

Possible Defenses to Criminal Tampering in the Second Degree

It is quite possible that you were unaware that the tampering you are accused of perpetuating was actually taking place. If that can be proven, your innocence can be established. In fact, the prosecutor needs to prove that the accused was aware of the tampering in order to gain a conviction. It is also possible that the tampering device, such as the jumper cables mentioned in the example, were installed by a previous tenant. If that is the case, the current occupant cannot be held responsible. In order for this particular charge to stick, prosecutors need to establish intent. It is up to nyc criminal attorneys to establish that such intent did not exist and that any tampering was the result of the actions of another person.

Keep in mind that sentence for criminal tampering in the second degree, while not severe, can have a pronounced and negative impact on your livelihood. You need to have a criminal lawyer on your side that understands how to establish your innocence and get the charges dropped.

New York Penal Law 145.20: Criminal Tampering in the Third Degree

There are laws in place to protect the personal property of others, and if one breaks these laws they could face charges of tampering. Tampering with a person’s property, and intentionally inconveniencing them, or others because of the tampering, could result in criminal charges. Anyone who is being suspected or charged with tampering should consult a criminal lawyer for their defense, and needs to gather all evidence or information that is relevant for the case for their legal representation. Understanding the crime and the consequences that it can bring is important.

The lawyer will first determine if the defense can prove that the accused was intentionally tampering, or if they did something accidentally, or without knowing, that ended up problematic for the victim. Disconnecting someone’s phone line whey they have a small business so they aren’t able to get calls for jobs for the day would be blatant tampering in the third degree. Someone who accidentally caused a problem because they weren’t trained properly, thought they were doing what was expected, or just didn’t know what they were doing was wrong, could have a strong defense. The lawyer will look at the case and determine if the charges could be thrown out.

There are different consequences when you are charged with tampering in the third degree. The charge would put a class D misdemeanor on the accused’s personal record. This could lead to 90 days in jail with a guilty verdict, or one could face a full year of probation. Fines and other punishments like community service could also be required. During probation, the person charged with tampering will be expected to meet all probation requirements, and failing to do so could lead to jail time or a longer extended probation sentence. There may also be a fine that has to be paid to the victim to cover the different losses that they experienced because of the tampering, and depending on what type of punishment the victim wants enforced.

Employers may not want to employ someone who intentionally tampered with another person’s property, since it can be a question of character, and any time there is a criminal background check performed, someone who has been charged with criminal tampering in the third degree will have to explain what happened to the person seeing the information. This is why getting a lawyer is so important, and why it’s best to get one before speaking with any police or investigators that are working on the case.

One mistake or a bad decision can have long term effects on one’s personal and professional life if they are charged with this crime, which is why finding an experienced New York City criminal lawyer is important.

If there is too much evidence that proves the accused person is guilty, and no way to possibly fight the charges, coming up with a plea deal with the prosecution may be the best option for the accused. The accuser can agree to pay the dollar amount that was lost by the victim, and to do the probation as needed, along with community service or other things to possibly avoid jail time. If the person has a past criminal record, their age, and the situation will all factor into the judge’s decision to allow a plea deal and what the punishment will be.

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