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New York Penal Law § 135.65: Coercion in the first degree

New York Penal Law § 135.65: Coercion in the first degree

Manipulation can easily become coercion, which is a criminal offense under New York Penal Law § 135.65. Coercion can be defined as the act of forcing another person to do something or refrain from doing something against their own will. Usually, coercion includes the threat of physical violence if someone does not obey the will of another, but you can also be charged with coercion if you force another person to commit a felony, assault another person or violate their duties as a public servant.

Coercion, at its core, is enacting control over another person through threats and compulsion and forcing them to do something they are legally entitled to refuse. First degree coercion often involves compelling another individual to commit a felony or injure another person.

First vs. Second Degree Coercion

Coercion in the second degree (New York Penal Law § 135.60) can be closely compared to the criminal act of bribery. The threats in second degree coercion may vary, but they are generally less physically violent and more duplicitous than they are in cases of first degree coercion. People may be charged with coercion in the second degree if they force a person to do something against their will by threatening to expose a secret, accuse them of a crime, cause a labor strike or boycott or harm another person’s health, safety, career and/or personal relationships.


The owner of a large company sexually assaults a female employee. The victim confides in a colleague, who confronts the business owner and says they’re taking the victim to the police station. The owner of the business threatens to fire both employees if they report the sexual assault and mentions that they have “other ways to keep you quiet.” Scared for both their financial stability and physical well-being, the employees do not act immediately. Another coworker hears the exchange and reports it to the authorities. The business owner is arrested and charged with coercion in the first degree as well as sexual assault.


First degree coercion is a Class D felony subject to a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. Your prior criminal history will be the largest determining factor in your final sentence as well as how much time you actually serve incarcerated. Individuals who have no prior convictions within the last 10 years may receive a probation of five years instead of a prison sentence. Those with at least one prior felony within the last 10 years will face a jail sentence from two to four years.


Depending on the threats used for coercion in the first degree, a prosecutor must prove any physical or property damages that were sustained. Physical injury must meet the criminal statute, so a minor injury that left a small bruise and cleared up in a few days isn’t substantial. If your charges involve forcing another person to commit a felony, you could argue that they willingly and knowingly committed the felony on their own accord and were not induced or compelled by you. Disproving the prosecutor’s claim of coercion will come down to the victim’s own capabilities and roles during the acts on trial.

How can a lawyer help?

Many cases of coercion are associated with related charges of bribery. If you have any criminal record over the last 10 years, being convicted of coercion in the first degree can result in several years in prison. In order to avoid a jail sentence or reduce your time incarcerated, it’s important to work with a licensed defense attorney who has extensive experience in the New York court and legal system. Schedule a free consultation today and learn more about your options.

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