New York State keeps very strict regulations on gambling and not all forms of gambling are permitted within the state. There’s even a law regulating the possession of gambling records, making it a class A misdemeanor under specific circumstances. Violating New York Penal Law § 225.15, commonly known as possession of gambling records in the second degree, is a victimless crime and, as such, carries a less severe penalty, though a conviction does allow for a jail term of up to one year.
A Closer Look at New York Penal Law § 225.15
An individual can be charged with second degree possession of gambling records in the event that he has possession of any document, article, or other writing commonly known as being used for the purposes of bookmaking and that the individual is aware of the contents of that piece of writing. In establishing a case of possession of gambling records, knowledge of the document’s contents is necessary, as it establishes the knowledge that one is engaging in criminal activity.
A second condition of New York Penal Law § 225.15 requires that the document is used in the “operation, promotion or playing of a lottery or policy scheme or enterprise,” adding to the previous element of bookmaking. By establishing each condition independently, New York State law recognizes that bookmaking and the act of gambling are separate elements of the same act.
The law governing the possession of gambling records does allow for a defense against charges of this nature, where the gambling bets were placed by the defendant himself on his own behalf. In order to qualify for this condition, the defendant can’t have placed more than 10 bets on his own behalf. Again, this includes any document or instrument used in the recording of the betting transactions.
New York Penal Law § 225.15 also recognizes that documents may be treated to prevent law enforcement and state prosecutors from utilizing the information as evidence against a defendant. A third element of the law considers an individual guilty of possessing gambling records in the second degree, where the paper document was chemically treated to have explosive capabilities. Typically, this is done by creating an ink with nitrocellulose. Additionally, the use of water soluble paper is also considered incriminating evidence in establishing a violation of New York Penal Law § 225.15.
Defending Against Second Degree Possession of Gambling Records
As mentioned previously, one important aspect of establishing a case of possession of gambling records is in the defendant’s knowledge of the contents of the document. If you can show that you weren’t aware the documents had anything to do with illegal gambling, that may be enough to cast reasonable doubt on the charges against you. Alternatively, it may be enough, if the prosecutor fails to show that you did, in fact, have such knowledge, as the burden of proof is on the district attorney.
In establishing your knowledge of the content of gambling records found in your possession, the district attorney may seek to prove you had such knowledge by inference. For instance, he may ask the jury to believe you knew of the contents of the document, simply because you occupied the same dwelling or office in which the documents were found.
Additionally, the prosecutor may have statements made by you and recorded via surveillance equipment that establishes your knowledge of the nature of the documents. For this reason, it’s very important not to discuss the documents with law enforcement, either before or after your arrest. Doing so may give the state key evidence in making the case against you.
Although possession of gambling records is a misdemeanor offense under New York State law, it’s likely that the prosecutor will seek to add on additional charges. By doing so, he may be able to secure a conviction for a greater crime, such as those falling under organized crime or white collar crime categories. In addition to bolstering his own record for achieving convictions, additional charges will mean a more severe penalty. For this reason, it’s vital that you do everything possible to protect yourself from providing the state with incriminating evidence.
As soon as you become aware of a case of possession of gambling records being made against you, it’s in your best interests to consult with a criminal lawyer experienced in dealing with charges of illegal gambling. When you sit down with a lawyer, be sure to tell him everything you can in relation to your case, so he can evaluate the circumstances of your case. By talking candidly and in confidence with your attorney, you can learn about your best options. While the choices open to you may or may not include a dismissal of the charges or an acquittal, your lawyer may be able to secure a lighter sentence.
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