New York Defendant Loses Appeal After Standoff with Police Officers, While Appellate Division Highlights Elements of “Menacing a Police Officer” Crime

In a July 2023 case before the Appellate Division, Third Department in New York, the defendant asked for the court to reconsider his guilty verdict for menacing a police officer pursuant to Penal law 120.18. According to the defendant, there was insufficient evidence to allow a jury to find him guilty, and the court should vacate the conviction as well as the related sentence. The court looked at the facts of the case, weighed the evidence, and eventually disagreed with the defendant, keeping his conviction in place.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, two deputy sheriffs went to the defendant’s home because he had failed to pay child support in accordance with his legal obligation. The sheriffs knocked on the defendant’s door to serve him with a warrant for his arrest. The defendant refused to allow the sheriffs to enter, at which point they called for backup and then pounded down the door.

The officers found the defendant standing at the entryway to his home with a rifle. The officers retreated and took cover, and a stand-off ensued that lasted two hours. Eventually, the defendant exited his home, having abandoned the weapon. The officers arrested him.

The defendant was charged with menacing a police officer, and he was found guilty. He promptly appealed.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued the evidence was not legally sufficient to show that he was guilty of menacing a police officer. In New York, an individual is guilty of menacing a police officer when he or she puts an officer in fear of physical injury or death while that officer is performing his or her official duties. The State can help prove the crime by showing that the defendant used a weapon to intimidate or threaten the officer in question.

Here, said the court, all of the elements of the crime were met. The defendant used his rifle to threaten the sheriffs, and he made them reasonably fear physical injury or death. The two-hour standoff between the parties showed that the officers were afraid for their lives, and the State had established the facts of the case in a satisfactory and convincing manner.

Therefore, the evidence was legally sufficient, and the defendant’s appeal would be denied. The conviction and sentence remained in place.

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