New York Court Upholds Defendant’s Conviction for Aggravated Assault Against an Officer Based on an Unintentional, Minor Injury

When it comes to New York assault cases, there are several different subsections under the general statute outlining what constitutes criminal conduct. One form of aggravated assault is when someone “with intent to prevent a police officer from performing a lawful duty, he [or she] causes physical injury to such police officer.”

This type of aggravated assault does not require any intent to cause harm to the police officer. Under the law, the prosecution need only establish that the defendant was acting to prevent an officer from performing a lawful duty and that the officer was harmed. A 2017 decision issued by a New York appellate court illustrates just how broadly courts will interpret this language when determining if a conviction was appropriate.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was suspected of theft from a Home Depot store. Police began to follow the defendant as he left the store and soon afterward engaged in a high-speed chase. Eventually, the defendant’s vehicle stopped, and the defendant exited the car and then began to flee.

A police officer gave chase and caught up to the defendant after a short chase. However, as the police officer tackled the defendant to the ground, the police officer injured his ring finger. There was no evidence that the officer’s injury was due to any intentional action of the defendant. The defendant was ultimately convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to six years’ incarceration, followed by five years’ supervision.

The Defendant’s Appeal

On appeal, the defendant claimed that the state’s evidence was legally insufficient to convict him of assault against the officer. The defendant explained that there was no evidence that he intended to cause the officer’s injuries.

The court, however, rejected the defendant’s argument and affirmed his conviction and sentence. The court explained that this specific subsection of aggravated assault is a “strict liability” crime, meaning that even if the injury to the officer was an accident, the defendant can still be found guilty. The court added that, when it comes to sustaining a conviction for this type of aggravated assault against a police officer, the prosecution must establish that the officer suffered “physical pain.” The court then went on to explain that “the pain must be more than slight or trivial but need not be severe or intense.”

As a general matter, a person cannot be held criminally responsible absent a showing of intent or knowledge. Here, the court explained that the knowledge element of the crime comes from the defendant’s intent to prevent the officer from performing a lawful duty, rather than the intent to cause harm to the officer.

Have You Been Arrested for Aggravated Assault?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with aggravated assault, you should contact the New York criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we represent those charged with serious New York felony and misdemeanor crimes, including aggravated assault. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated New York assault defense attorney to determine how we can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 877-377-8666 to schedule your free consultation today.

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