New York Criminal Possession of a Weapon Conviction Reversed After People Fail to Prove Stick Was a Dangerous Instrument

In a recent assault case before an appellate court in New York, the defendant successfully overturned several convictions related to a Child Abuse case. Although, the top charge of Assault in the First Degree stood, the case outlines some limits on criminal possession of a dangerous instrument.  Originally, the defendant was convicted of several crimes, including assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree, reckless assault of a child, criminal possession of a weapon, and endangering the welfare of a child. On appeal, she asked that the court reconsider these convictions. Ultimately, the court agreed that at least two of the convictions should be vacated, granting the defendant’s request in part.

The Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was charged with a myriad of crimes based on injuries found on her two-year-old son. The State presented evidence that the child was violently shaken, bruised, and bitten on different occasions. He also sustained several brain injuries because of the shaking, and the State included medical reports as part of the evidence against the defendant.

At trial, the defendant admitted that she occasionally hit the child, pinched his skin, and bit him and punished him with a “bamboo stick”.  She was later found guilty and was sentenced to time in prison as a result.

The Court’s Decision

On appeal, one of the defendant’s arguments was that the evidence presented was insufficient to support her guilty conviction because there was insufficient evidence that the “bamboo stick,” which was not produced as evidence at the trial, was capable of causing serious physical injury or death under the circumstances in which it was used. Specifically, the State’s evidence in support of the charge for criminal possession of a weapon was not enough to allow a court to find her guilty. At trial, the State had argued that the defendant used a bamboo stick to discipline the child and that this bamboo stick qualified as a weapon under the circumstances. However, said the defendant, the State never actually brought the bamboo stick in for trial, and there was no way to know whether she had actually used it in a way that was capable of causing a very serious injury or death.

Looking at the trial court’s record, the higher court ultimately agreed with the defendant on this point. Because the State did not actually provide any substantial evidence to support the claim that the bamboo stick had been used as a weapon, which was capable of causing very serious  injury, the conviction for criminal possession of a weapon and assault with a weapon should be vacated. While the court kept the defendant’s other convictions in place, it reversed these convictions in particular.

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