Coercion is the act of convincing someone to do something through the use of threats or other force. Coercion is an illegal act proscribed by law. In New York coercion is usually charged in two ways: coercion in the first degreeand coercion in the second degree. Other related offenses include: bribery in the first degree, bribery in the second degree, and bribery in the third degree. This article focuses on coercion in the second degree.
Under the New York Penal Code coercion may include any of the following:
1. Coercing someone to commit an act they would normally have the legal right to abstain from; or
2. Coercing someone to abstain from something they would normally have a legal right to participate in; or
3. Coercing someone to participate in an organized group or criminal enterprise.
The aforementioned are found to be coercion in the second degree when the individual being coerced is placed in the fear of any of the following:
- Physical injury;
- Property damage;
- Criminal conduct;
- Criminal accusations or criminal charges against them;
- Exposure of a secret or the making of an assertion against them that would make them subject to ridicule, hatred or contempt publicly.
- Collective labor group action injurious to business, a boycott, or strike (unless the person who made the threat did so in a group’s interest);
- Withholding or provision of testimony in a legal matter;
- Use or abuse of a public servant’s position; or
- Performance of an act calculated to harm another’s health, calling, business, safety, finances, career, or personal relationships.
Here are some examples of instances that could result in a charge of coercion in the second degree:
People v. Greer, 42 NY2d 170 (1977): An individual had been charged with rape and there were varying theories of the facts leading to the charge. The individual claimed that he had a prior relationship with the alleged victim and received consent. However, the alleged victim said she had been driven around against her will and engaged in the act after she had been removed from her vehicle by the individual who identified himself as Mosely, a name associated with rape and murder inducing her to comply. An appellate court believed that this was sufficient enough to include coercion in the second degree as a lesser included offense to the rape.
People v. Piznarski, 113 AD3d 166 (2013): A college student decided to secretly record his then girlfriend performing a sex act on him. After the pair later broke up, the individual threatened to release the secretly recorded footage publicly to humiliate the ex-girlfriend if she did not have sex with him again. The individual was charged with coercion in the second degree.
What is the applicable sentence? Coercion in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor punishable by at least three years of probation up to a one year jail term.
How does one defend against a charge? Defending against a charge of coercion in the second degree is very fact intensive. Your defense of the charge is dependent on the unique underlying facts of the charge. The state will have the burden of proving that the underlying facts amounted to coercion in the second degree. Your defense could involve distinguishing the action alleged from the applicable legal definitions. For instance, in a charge where the underlying allegation involves property damage, one could show there was no such damage. Likewise, where the underlying allegation of the charge involves a physical injury, one could show there was no actual injury. Successfully lodging the appropriate defense requires skilled legal counsel. You should consult an attorney to determine applicable defenses based on your unique circumstances.