Menacing in the Second Degree: New York Penal Law § 120.14

All forms of menacing in New York concern a physical threat to another person. Menacing, generally, requires the intent to put another individual in fear of physical injury or worse, and the degrees of menacing relate to the actions a person takes in order to cause that fear.

A person commits Menacing in the Second Degree when that physical threat is accompanied by the display of a dangerous instrument or what appears to be a firearm. A dangerous instrument can be a knife, bat, crowbar, or any other item which could conceivably be used to cause physical injury, and the person is holding that object in a way that communicates an intention to use it, regardless of whether the object is actually used. Additionally, the statute indicates that a person can be convicted of Menacing in the Second Degree if the person displays what appears to be a firearm. A starter pistol, air pistol, BB gun, or any other type of fake gun can satisfy this requirement so long as it looks like a real gun and is displayed during the threat.

Alternatively, a person can be convicted under this statute if he or she engages in a course of conduct, over a period of time, which is designed to place another individual in fear of physical injury. This is similar to Stalking in the Fourth Degree and this subsection of Menacing in the Second Degree will frequently be charged with that stalking charge. There is some ambiguity with this charge as it requires acts to be committed over time, and there is no set criteria for how long, or how many specific acts must be committed in order to satisfy the charges. The only concrete requirement is that the acts be designed to place another person in reasonable fear of physical injury. It is up to the discretion of the prosecutor to determine whether enough acts have been committed over enough time to constitute Menacing in the Second Degree.

Frequently, Menacing in the Second Degree is charged with assault, harassment, and/or criminal contempt. Very often this charge appears in a domestic violence situation where an argument becomes heated and a complainant feels that their partner is threatening them so they call the police. The NYPD has begun a policy of mandatory arrests in nearly all domestic violence situations where one partner calls 911.

As a class A Misdemeanor, Menacing in the Second Degree is punishable by up to a year in jail, and will also result in the issuance of a judicial order of protection, which will require the defendant from refraining from all communication and any contact with the complainant or else face re-arrest and new charges. This can seriously complicate a person's life if the order of protection prevents the person from going home and there is nowhere else that person can stay. Having an attorney who can communicate with the prosecution and victim to get the order modified to allow a person to return home can sometimes be the difference between shelter and homelessness.

Arguments at home, at work, or at social events can escalate quickly and without intent by either party involved. Once this happens, in the heat of moment, a person may pick up anything laying around, a kitchen knife, a bat, a bottle, etc. and shake it threateningly, which may put a person in fear of being assaulted regardless of whether the actor intended to actually to strike a blow, leading to an arrest for Menacing in the Second Degree.

If you have been charged with Menacing, it is important that you contact an attorney who will thoroughly investigate the facts as quickly as possible to determine your best defense. These types of cases frequently turn on one party's word against the other, with little physical evidence. It is crucial to nail down all possible witnesses' stories as soon as possible, while incident is fresh in their minds - and before they can change their version of events. Further, it is critical that you retain an attorney who will not only investigate the facts of the case, but also what may have prompted the complaint to begin with. Exposing bias or reasons for a complainant to fabricate an event may be the difference between having the charges dismissed or getting a criminal record.

The New York domestic violence attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman have a proven track record of success investigating and litigating menacing cases, as well as other charges that can arise from domestic incidents. Call us today at (212) 581-1001 for a free case evaluation.