Consumer product manufacturers take great care to make sure their products are safe. It’s common for products to have tamper-proof caps, seals, and child-proof lids. Consumers know that if a product’s seal is broken, that means someone has tampered with the item. Consumers also know to avoid any package that appears to have been tampered with. This issue gained national attention in the 1980s because of deaths associated with tainted over-the-counter medication. But since then, product tampering cases have involved beauty products and food.
There are now federal and state laws that criminalize product tampering. New York Penal Law § 145.40 covers tampering with a consumer product in the second degree. The following actions are considered consumer product tampering in the second degree:
1. Contaminating or altering a consumer product.
2. Tampering with a product in order to intentionally injure or cause fear in another person.
3. Tampering with a product without the legal right or reason to do so.
Example of Second Degree Product Tampering
Consider an employee who works in a fast food restaurant. The workers hates the job, and dislikes the restaurant’s manager. Instead of finding a new job, the worker decides to get revenge on the manager and the restaurant. The disgruntled worker decides to poison several salads with rat poison. The intent is to make diners sick so the health department will come in and close the restaurant. These actions count as tampering in the second degree because the worker wants to intentionally make people sick.
Building a Defense
A conviction can occur only if the prosecutor proves the tampering was deliberate. The court must have proof that the tampering occurred specifically to cause harm. The defendant can possibly avoid conviction by proving no harm was intended. But the defendant would also need a good reason for tampering with the product at all. Or the defendant must prove they believed they had a legal right to alter the product.
Sentencing for Conviction
Second degree consumer product tampering is a class A misdemeanor. This crime carries a possible sentence of up to one year in jail. The court also has the right to decide against a jail sentence. In that case, 3 years of probation and a fine is likely the punishment.
Offenses Related to Tampering in the Second Degree
There are several additional New York laws that also deal with product tampering. The specifics of each case determine which law has been broken. A misdemeanor conviction carries a lighter sentence than one for a felony. But all of the actions are punishable crimes that can lead to time in jail.
1. New York Penal Law New York § 145.45 – tampering in the first degree (class E felony).
2. New York Penal Law New York § 145.14 – third degree criminal tampering (class B misdemeanor).
3. New York Penal Law New York § 145.15 – second degree criminal tampering (class A misdemeanor).
4. New York Penal Law New York § 140.20 – first degree criminal tampering (class D felony).
A Serious Situation
Second degree consumer product tampering is a misdemeanor. This charge is less serious than a felony, but it’s still a serious situation. A misdemeanor conviction can result in up to a year in jail. That’s one year away from work, friends, family, and freedom. And even if probation is the punishment, that still puts a limit on freedom.
Anyone convicted of product tampering should seek legal help. An experienced attorney can represent the case, gather evidence, and provide general guidance on how to proceed. Should a conviction occur, a lawyer can lobby for the lightest sentence or possibly make a deal.