First Degree Harassment: NY Penal Law 240.25

A class “B” misdemeanor, First Degree Harassment may not be the most serious crime in the New York Penal Law, but proceed with your arrest and prosecution with caution. Certainly, you could either ignore the advice of your criminal defense attorney or decide that an arrest for New York Penal Law 240.25 is limited in how it can affect your life now and in the future. For that matter, you could also find yourself standing before a judge an awaiting a ninety-day sentence, one-year probation or some form of community service. To add insult to your cavalier attitude, do not be shocked nor complain to your criminal defense lawyer after you are slapped with a full order of protection or restraining order at both the onset and closure of your criminal case. At bottom, take an arrest for PL 240.25 as serious as any other criminal allegation who deal with the consequences for the remained of your life.

The New York criminal code is fairly straight forward when it comes to First Degree Harassment. Yes, a conviction will leave you not merely “tarred and feathered” in the public eye, but with a criminal record that won’t wash away regardless of how much you scrub the internet or your memory. Simply, you are guilty of PL 240.25 if you intentionally and repeatedly harass another person. This harassment must include following that person in or about a public place. Even if not following your alleged victim in such a manner, if prosecutors can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you engaged in a course of conduct or repeatedly committed acts which placed your target in reasonable fear of physical injury, a judge or jury could still convict you of First Degree Harassment.

Even though the statutory language of PL 240.30 does not seem very convoluted, there are a few words worth explaining. First, one’s fear must be reasonable. “Reasonable” is established, or not, by the circumstances of your conduct. Is it reasonable that a person has such a fear if you merely said “hello” three times, pursued them for employment or a repeatedly asked them on a date? Likely not, but, growling at a person repeatedly and trying to get them to flinch, as silly as that sounds, may very well meet and surpass the “reasonable” threshold. Additionally, the fear cannot be of anything, but that the complainant will suffer a physical injury. “Physical injury” is defined as substantial pain and can include a “strawberry” on your leg or lump to your forehead. These definitions aside, remember that a First Degree Harassment arrest in New York can be devoid of these elements because as reflected in the first sentence of PL 240.30, if you intentionally harass someone by following them around a public place or places, even without threats or actually causing reasonable fears of physical injury, the police can arrest you with probable cause and the District Attorney can potentially secure a conviction with proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Whether or not you are given a Desk Appearance Ticket due to a PL 240.25 arrest in New York City or you are handcuffed and brought before a local Justice Court in a Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess or Orange county municipality, the law is the same and the consequences of a conviction are equally grave. Don’t find yourself trying to explain away an arrest and conviction at every job interview, licensure application or immigration related proceeding. Take your time to understand the law, identify the best defense to your First Degree Harassment arrest and retain the criminal defense lawyer or attorneys who can rely on their experience, knowledge and advocacy to ward off a criminal conviction, minimize your exposure and keep your future viable and strong.

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