Statutory Presumptions: What are they and how will they affect your case?

A presumption is a conclusion of fact that is assumed to be true unless and until that presumption is proven to not be true.  The linchpin of the great American criminal jurisprudence is that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

A statutory presumption occurs when a proven or basic fact is established, some other fact must be deemed true, or presumed. Presumptions call for conclusions that are only possible based on the evidence presented. Theoretically, the jury should reach the same conclusion in the absence of the presumed fact. In a criminal prosecution, they function as shortcuts by allowing the prosecution to establish an element of a crime by establishing other facts.

Statutory presumptions are not available upon request in every criminal case. They are precluded in cases when the underlying facts needed to support the presumed fact are not present.

In most cases, they are used expressly for the sake of manipulating the burden of proof. A presumption shifts the burden of proof to the opposing party. In criminal cases, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution. It is the prosecution’s responsibility to provide evidence against the defendant to find them guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. If a statutory presumption has been approved for the case, the burden of proof will fall on the defendant. They will be required to present all the facts, evidence, and elements to prove they are not guilty.

Many cases that involve the use of a statutory presumption deal with guns and drugs. For example, it may be presumed that all occupants of a vehicle knowingly possess a controlled substance found in the vehicle, if it was not concealed on a person. In another scenario, there may be a presumption that all occupants knowingly possess a controlled substance when it is found in plain sight in a room.

Presumptions are justified by the claim that when the underlying inferential facts are proven to exist, the ultimate fact is likely true. The problem with the use of presumptions is that claims are not based on empirical evidence, but rather hunches or guesses.

If you are facing criminal charges, you need an experienced defense attorney who is familiar with the various statutory presumptions that may apply in your criminal case.  The Law Office of Stephan Jacob Siegel is proud to provide you with skilled criminal defense that will thoroughly investigate all aspects of your criminal case to make sure that you are able to put forward your best possible defense.  To arrange for a consultation to discuss your case and learn how my experience can help you, call me today at 718-575-3900.

What does the Burden of Proof Mean?

In the United States, everyone hauled in front of a court of law on criminal charges is innocent until proven guilty. But, what does this mean exactly? In criminal cases, it is the prosecutor’s responsibility to establish the burden of proof. The defendant doesn’t have to prove their innocence. Rather, the state must prove they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Under the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and New York State Law, the prosecution is required to provide evidence against the defendant. The prosecution must convince the jury or judge that their version of the facts is true. When the burden of proof is on the state or prosecution, the state must present all the facts, elements, and evidence necessary to establish that the individual committed the crime. Additionally, all of the elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that if a jury or judge has sensible doubt about any element of the state’s case, then they can’t find the defendant guilty. It doesn’t have to be an absolute certainty.

New York Standards of Proof

Article 70 of the New York Criminal Procedural Law provides an explanation of the burden of proof.

  • 70.10 defines the terms:
  1. Legally sufficient evidence” means competent evidence which, if accepted as true, would establish every element of an offense charged and the defendant’s commission thereof;  except that such evidence is not legally sufficient when corroboration required by law is absent.

2. “Reasonable cause to believe that a person has committed an offense” exists when evidence or information which appears reliable discloses facts or circumstances which are collectively of such weight and persuasiveness as to convince a person of ordinary intelligence, judgment and experience that it is reasonably likely that such offense was committed and that such person committed it. Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, such apparently reliable evidence may include or consist of hearsay.

  • 70.20 describes the burden of proof for conviction:

No conviction of an offense by verdict is valid unless based upon trial evidence which is legally sufficient and which establishes beyond a reasonable doubt every element of such offense and the defendant’s commission thereof.

If you are facing criminal charges, you need an experienced defense attorney to defend and protect your rights. The Law Office of Stephan Jacob Siegel is proud to provide you with expert criminal defense. We will investigate all aspects of your criminal case to ensure the process as smoothly as possible. For a free phone consultation, call me today at 718-575-3900 to learn how my experience can be put to work for you.

Stalking Creates Element of Fear

Stalking is a serious criminal offense in New York. Under New York Law, there are four classifications of stalking—Fourth Degree, Third Degree, Second Degree, and First Degree. Even the least serious of stalking charges can have a lasting impact on your life. If you have been accused, you probably feel scared and confused. You may feel like you did nothing wrong and that there is a big misunderstanding. You probably don’t understand how the alleged victim felt frightened by you. If this is the case, you need a NY criminal defense attorney to prove that your actions were taken out of context.

Under New York Law, stalking in the Fourth Degree is a Class D Misdemeanor and carries a maximum of up to 90 days in jail. NY penal laws define stalking as the unwarranted pursuit of another person and not a one-time event. Instead, it is characterized as a pattern of malicious and willful behavior. A person is guilty of stalking in the Fourth Degree if they intentionally and for no legitimate purpose in a course of conduct directed at a particular person knowingly or should have knowledge that such action:

  • Is likely to cause fear of personal physical harm or fear about safety of property of the victim, a family member or acquaintance
  • Causes harm mentally or emotionally to the victim by calling, initiating communication or contact with the person
  • Is likely to cause the victim reasonable fear that their business, career, employment will be threatened by appearing, telephoning, initiating communication or contact and the accused person had earlier been told to cease such conduct

To put this in more simple terms, an alleged victim of stalking behavior does not have to actually be in fear.  Rather, the actions must be likely to cause fear. Behaving in an obnoxious manner that is not threatening is generally not sufficient enough to establish that someone is guilty of stalking. There must be a ”likelihood” that the offender’s behaviors will cause someone to have “reasonable” fear of harm or action. The term reasonable in this context relies heavily on the history that precipitated the stalker’s behavior.  The victim may experience reasonable fear based on their past experiences with their stalker. To prove there is a reasonable likelihood of fear, the court must prove that there is direct, circumstantial, implicit, or historical evidence of violent or intimidating behavior.

If you have been charged with stalking it is best to immediately contact a NY criminal defense attorney. Due to the seriousness of this law in New York, cases can be a hard nut to crack. At the Law Office of Stephan Jacob Siegel, Esq. we have the resources, expertise, exposure and dedication to get you the best outcome. Call us for a free consultation at (718) 575-3900.

What’s the Difference between Petit and Grand Larceny?

According to New York Law, larceny is the left of property with notable value. It occurs when an individual wrongfully takes, obtains, or withholds property from the rightful owner, with the intent to deprive the owner. Property is defined as any substance or item of value. This can include money, personal property, intangibles, contracts, credit/debit cards, firearms, gas, water, electricity, and religious artifacts New York Penal laws identify specific methods of committing theft, including:

  • By trick or embezzlement
  • Obtaining by false pretense
  • Acquiring lost property
  • Taking property through extortion
  • Issuing a bad check

Theft charges are classified as either Petit Larceny or Grand Larceny based on the monetary value of the property involved. Petit Larceny is classified as a Misdemeanor offense, while Grand Larceny is a felony. Items stolen with a higher value will result in more serious charges, and subsequently carry more severe penalties. However, certain stolen property is considered to be Grand Larceny, regardless of it’s worth. Multiple charges of petty theft can result in a felony charge.

Petit Larceny

Petty theft is the lowest-level theft offense. It is the unlawful taking of property with a value of $1,000 or less. Under New York Law, it is classified as a Class A Misdemeanor. This has a penalty of up to a year in prison or a fine of $1,000.

Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree

If the value of the item or service stolen is more than $1,000 or if it is a firearm, motor vehicle, or other specified property under the law it is a Class E Felony. The penalties include imprisonment up to four years and a fine of up to $5,000 or double an offender’s gain from the offense.  

Grand Larceny in the Third Degree

It is a Class D Felony if the value of property stolen exceeds $3,000 or if it is an ATM or its contents. It will result in a prison time of up to seven years and fine not to exceed $5,000 or double an offender’s gain from the offense

Grand Larceny in the Second Degree

If the value stolen exceeds $50,000 or it is obtained through extortion, you will be charged with a Class C Felony. If found guilty, you can face up fifteen years imprisonment and a fine of $15,000 or double the amount gained from the offense.

Grand Larceny in the First Degree 

This is the most serious theft charge. It is a Class B Felony to steal property with a value of over $1,000,000. You could go to jail for up to twenty-five years and a fine of up to $5,000 or double the amount gained from the offense.

If you are facing a larceny and theft, we are here to assist you. We will review your case and provide direction to ensure you get a fair trial. At Stephan Jacob Siegel, Esq., we have the experience to handle your legal issues. Call us today for a free consultation (718) 575-3900.