As a Rochester, New York, criminal lawyer, I handle criminal defense matters in all New York courts.
CRIMINAL CHARGES IN NEW YORK
In New York State there are 3 classifications of offenses:
Violations (punishable up to 15 days in jail)
Misdemeanors (punishable up to 1 year in jail)
Felonies (punishable by any state prison sentence of more than 1 year)
There is a significant difference between a violation and a misdemeanor. A violation is not a criminal conviction and the record is generally sealed. If convicted of a violation, you can state that you have not been convicted of a crime, and can indicate that on a school or employment application. Misdemeanors and felonies are criminal convictions that stay on your record for the rest of your life.
Criminal charges can range from the First Degree to the Seventh Degree. The lower the degree, the more serious the charge. For example, a First Degree charge is more serious than a Seventh Degree charge. The same is true for the alphabetical letters that accompany the charges. An “A” is the most serious charge. Felonies are designated from A through E, and misdemeanors are either A or B.
Below are brief definitions of the most common charges in alphabetical order, as well as some common legal terms.
Intentionally causing physical injury to another person. Assault can be either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on whether (and what kind of) a weapon was used and how badly the victim was injured.
Entering, or unlawfully remaining, in a building with the intent to commit a crime inside. The intent to commit the crime must exist at the time of entry, but it is not necessary for any crime to actually be carried out. Burglary can be either a B, C or D felony depending on whether (and what kind of) a weapon was used and whether someone was injured.
The violation of a court order, such as an order of protection — either “no contact” or “no offensive contact.” Criminal contempt can either be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the nature of the violation.
CRIMINAL POSSESSION/SALE OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES OR MARIJUANA
Criminal possession/sale encompasses owning, holding, selling or controlling any amount of illegal drugs. The type and quantity of the drugs influence the level of crime charged and whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony.
Marijuana has its own misdemeanor and felony parameters, which are generally not as severe as other drugs such as crack cocaine or heroin.
CRIMINAL POSSESSION OF A WEAPON
Weapons possession can be charged in a variety of counts, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies, based on the specific facts of the case.
Disorderly conduct encompasses a wide range of behavior considered offensive to public order. Disorderly conduct is a violation and may be offered in a plea bargain as an alternative to a misdemeanor.
DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED
See our DWI/DUI page.
Harassment is communicating with a person in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm, placing a person in reasonable fear of physical injury, or making a telephone call with no purpose of legitimate communication. Harassment can be either a misdemeanor or violation depending on the nature of the conduct.
Homicide encompasses several different types of murder as well as manslaughter. All of these counts include an action, intentional, reckless or negligent, that ultimately results in the death of another person. All homicide charges are felonies.
Larceny is wrongfully taking or withholding another person’s property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of that property. Larceny can be either a felony (Grand) or misdemeanor (Petit) depending on the value of what was stolen.
Menacing is displaying a weapon or engaging in a behavior that intentionally places another person in reasonable fear of physical injury or death. Menacing can be either a felony or misdemeanor depending on whether the defendant has previously been convicted of menacing within the last ten years.
Rape encompasses a variety of acts: stranger rape, date rape, consensual sex with someone under 17, or consensual sex with someone who is mentally impaired (with permanent mental defects or impaired by drugs or alcohol). All rape charges are felonies.
Robbery is stealing with force. Force or intimidation is required, and the property must have been taken from the victim’s person or some location reasonably close to the victim. Robbery can be either a B, C or D felony depending on whether (and what kind of) a weapon was used and if someone was injured.