New York Appellate Court Upholds Assault Conviction, Rejects Defendant’s Justification Defense

When facing a criminal trial, one of the most essential things to understand is whether you are able to assert any defenses to the charges against you. As seasoned New York criminal defense lawyers, we have aided many people in assessing their cases and crafting vigorous defenses. The following recent appellate court opinion showcases how taking a considered approach to articulating a defense can make a significant difference.

The defendant was charged with assault in the first degree after he was involved in a physical altercation at a corner store with a man who was 50 years old and who had a history of drug use and criminal activity. The record indicated that the victim had provoked the defendant and that the defendant had made two threats to kill the victim. Eventually, the defendant punched the victim.

Surveillance footage admitted at trial showed what occurred after the initial punch. The defendant and the victim left the premises, but each returned at individual times. The defendant again struck the victim, this time using a milk crate and hitting the victim in the face. Medical professionals later determined that the victim suffered a potentially life-threatening brain injury, broken nose, and broken cheekbone at the hospital to which he was transported.

The jury convicted the defendant of a lesser included offense of assault in the second degree. The Appellate Division affirmed the charge on appeal, and the defendant appealed, again arguing that the court made a reversible error when it refused to instruct the jury on the defense of justification.

In affirming the lower court’s decision, the appellate court concluded that there was no evidence in the record that would have supported providing the jury with an instruction regarding the defense of justification, even when considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the defendant. To provide this instruction, the defendant would need to have shown that a reasonable person could objectively believe that the defendant was in danger of suffering physical harm from the defendant at the time the defendant assaulted or used force against the victim. Applied in the present case, after the defendant initially struck the victim and knocked him out, he left the premises. When he returned, however, no evidence indicated that the victim was threatening the defendant or intending to cause him harm. The surveillance video instead showed that the victim was outside the store, stumbling around and not engaging with the defendant. Ultimately, the appellate court concluded that the evidence of the defendant’s guilty conduct was “overwhelming.”

If you are facing a criminal charge or part of a criminal investigation, it is imperative that you consult with a seasoned New York assault defense lawyer promptly. Although you may feel compelled to work with the authorities and to talk to them with the hopes of exonerating yourself, there are precise procedural rules and other complex aspects of the criminal legal system that are important to understand before engaging with the authorities. At Tilem & Associates, we will ensure that you receive the prompt, personalized, and vigorous legal defense that you deserve during this stressful and confusing time. We offer a free consultation to help you learn about your options and potential defenses. Call us now at 877-377-8666 or contact us online to get started.

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