You just got into a loud, ugly screaming match with a neighbor. Incredibly, a few minutes later the police show up at your house to arrest you for Menacing. Although the crime of Menacing may sound ominous, the New York Penal Law defines it as “intentionally plac[ing] another person in “reasonable fear of physical injury, serious physical injury or death.” Essentially, what this amounts to is the threatening of another individual by words and/or actions. The main difference between Menacing in the Second Degree (PL § 120.14) and Third Degree (PL § 120.15) is that Second Degree Menacing includes the display of a deadly weapon or other dangerous instrument and in the third degree it does not. A deadly weapon generally refers to a gun or a knife, whereas a dangerous instrument refers to any other object that can be used to cause harm to an individual. In addition, Menacing in the Second Degree is an A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison; in the Third Degree it is a B misdemeanor, with up to six months in jail as the maximum exposure.
A Few Exaggerated Threats Can Trigger a Criminal Charge
In our everyday lives, people often speak in hyperbolic or exaggerated speech, even more so when they become emotional or angry. Not to undermine the seriousness of these statements when intended literally, but phrases like “I’ll kick your ass,” “I could kill you,” or “I’m gonna murder someone,” are often thrown around as expressions of displeasure or frustration between family members, spouses, friends or even colleagues. The speaker may never have actually had any intent to cause bodily harm and certainly not death to whomever he is speaking with. However, often these statements can be taken out of context, especially if they escalate into a verbal or physical altercation, resulting in an arrest of one or both parties. Once the police are involved, whether there was a physical fight or not, these statements can be used against the speaker and can become the crux of the charge. Adding insult to injury, if the speaker is holding an object while making the threats, whether it is a cooking knife, a gardening rake, or simply pointing a pen or a key at another, even if there is no intention to use the object to harm another, that would be enough to legally make out both Menacing in the Second and Third Degrees.
The Credibility of the Accuser is Crucial
Menacing cases can be very easy to prove: the object used to threaten the alleged victim does not need to be recovered or even produced at trial. Witness testimony alone, if believed, could be sufficient to prove these charges. For example, if it is alleged that a victim was threatened with a gun, that gun does not need to test operable, it does not even need to be a real gun; it can be a toy gun and the charge would be the same nonetheless. Even if the gun was never recovered and produced at trial, if the witness testified credibly that she was threatened by the defendant with a gun, that would be sufficient to convict a person at trial of Menacing in the Second Degree.
Similarly, while Third Degree Menacing does not require a threat with any type of instrument, the prosecutor would only need the complaining witness to testify to the threatening statement and/or behavior of the defendant that placed them in “reasonable fear of physical injury, serious physical injury or death.” As these cases are built largely upon witness testimony, it is of the utmost important that you hire one of the best New York criminal defense attorneys who can destroy the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses and provide you with the strongest possible defense – because while you may not go to jail if convicted of Menacing, you will still have a criminal conviction which could be seen by future employers, schools, etc. and can gravely impact your life. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman are known for aggressive cross examinations and can help you keep your record clean. Read our reviews and schedule an appointment to discuss your case today.