New York Criminal Law: An Overview

New York City is often depicted as a crime-ridden metropolis. In reality, both New York City and New York State are better off than many other states and metros as far as crime rates go.

New York State was ranked 19th in the nation in violent crime rates for 2014. Meanwhile, New York City recorded only 328 murders in 2014óa record-low number of homicides since 1928. That's fairly impressive for the seventh-most densely populated state with the most populous city in the United States.

New York Felonies and Misdemeanors

New York criminal offenses are generally categorized as felonies or misdemeanors, depending on their nature and the maximum punishment. Like every other state, New York can draft its own new criminal laws but state laws have to be constitutional. Many state laws around the country have been deemed unconstitutional by federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.

A felony in New York is serious criminal charge punishable by death or by imprisonment for more than one year plus a fine of up to $100,000. Most state criminal laws divide felonies into different classes with varying degrees of punishment. Crimes that donít amount to felonies are often called misdemeanors.

In New York, a misdemeanor is typically misconduct that the law provides punishment of one year or less in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. Minor offenses like traffic violations and public nuisance are often called unclassified misdemeanors.

Sealing a Criminal Record in New York

New York law prohibits the expungement of criminal records. (Expunging a criminal record means to erase it.) However, certain non-serious offenses may be sealed from public access. These offenses include trespassing, loitering, marijuana possession, juvenile delinquencies, and other non-violent offenses. Very few felonies and misdemeanors may be conditionally sealedóotherwise, felonies and misdemeanors in general cannot be sealed.

New York DWI Laws

Like in every other state, New York's DWI laws don't only apply to drunk driving. Substances like prescription drugs, marijuana, and narcotics can all impair drivers, and any level of driver impairment is illegal.

Alcoholic impairment is determined by a chemical test administered by law enforcement. The chemical test measures a driver's blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) level. In New York, a driver with a 0.08 percent BAC is considered impaired and unable to drive safely and legally.

Capital Punishment in New York

New York does not have the death penalty. The last death sentence was converted to life imprisonment in 2007. The maximum felony sentence is life imprisonment. On September 1, 2017, the maximum felony sentence will change to indeterminate imprisonment. This means that the court will decide the length of the sentence according to the maximum term allowed under law for the criminal charges.

Contact a New York Criminal Defense Attorney

Anyone facing criminal charges in New York has the right to mount a vigorous defense. An attorney familiar with local criminal procedures and laws can be a crucial advocate.

Make sure you talk with an attorney about your case and your needs before hiring one. Most criminal defense lawyers should be able to handle any misdemeanor or low-level crime. Not all attorneys are qualified to handle serious charges.

A qualified criminal defense attorney could mean the difference between going to jail and going free.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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