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Tampering with Public Records in the First and Second Degrees

Criminal tampering, applies when someone breaks a payphone, or unlawfully tampers or makes a connection with property of a gas, electric, sewer, stream, water-works, or with the property of any public carrier or a public utility operated by a municipality or district.
Under the New York Penal Law, a person is guilty of Tampering with Public Records in the Second Degree when, knowing that he does not have the authority of anyone entitled to grant it, he knowingly removes, mutilates, destroys, conceals, makes a false entry in or falsely alters any record or other written instrument filed with, deposited in, or otherwise constituting a record of a public office or public servant. Tampering with Public Records in the Second Degree is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

A person is guilty of Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree when, knowing that he does not have the authority of anyone entitled to grant it, and with intent to defraud, he knowingly removes, mutilates, destroys, conceals, makes a false entry in or falsely alters any record or other written instrument filed with, deposited in, or otherwise constituting a record of a public office or public servant. Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree is a class D felony punishable by up to seven years in state prison.

The crucial difference between these two statutes and facing up to one year in jail or seven years in state prison hinges on only a few words. Those words are intent to defraud. The crime is divided into two degrees. The difference between the two degrees is that Tampering in the First Degree 175.25, unlike Tampering in the Second Degree [、 175.20, requires an intent to defraud. The seeming intent of the revisers was to distinguish, for example, the culpability of a person who tears up a public record in anger, from the person who calculatingly tampers with a public record as part of a fraudulent scheme.” Because of the discrepancy between the two offenses as to potential punishment, it may be central to your defense to challenge whether or not you had the “intent to defraud.” Even before that, however, your criminal defense attorney should examine whether the “public record” in question is in fact a “public record” under the law.

In the case of People v. Moore, defendant appealed from the judgment convicting her of the crimes of grand larceny in the second degree (two counts), grand larceny in the third degree (two counts), computer trespass (two counts), grand larceny in the fourth degree, falsifying business records in the first degree (eight counts), tampering with public records in the first degree (two counts), obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree and attempted forgery in the second degree.

Defendant, a clerk and bookkeeper for the Town of Kinderhook, Columbia County, stole several hundred thousand dollars from the Town over a three-year period. She left that employment and performed similar tasks for the Town of Greenport, Columbia County, where she stole over $50,000. Defendant ultimately pleaded guilty to a 20-count indictment charging her with numerous offenses related to the thefts and her efforts to conceal them, with no promises being made as to the sentence. Supreme Court sentenced defendant to an aggregate prison term of 3 to 9 years and ordered her to pay restitution.

Defendant now appeals, arguing solely that the sentence imposed was harsh and excessive. We disagree. Supreme Court acknowledged that it had reviewed the letters written in support of defendant, the presentence investigation report, and indications that her crimes were motivated by a shopping addiction. It questioned her claim of addiction, however, and stressed the scope of her deceit in stealing massive sums of money from the two towns over several years. Under these circumstances, we perceive no extraordinary circumstances nor any abuse in discretion that would warrant a reduction of the sentence in the interest of justice.

The New York criminal defense attorneys and former Manhattan prosecutors with vast experience both prosecuting and defending individuals accused of white collar crimes. While most of the crimes criminal defense lawyers handle in the white collar arena relate to Grand Larceny type offenses, the scope of white collar crimes in New York State and NYC goes well beyond large thefts.

If your loved one is charged with or being investigated for the above-mentioned crimes, seek the legal assistance of a New York Criminal Attorney and New York Criminal Defense Attorney at Stephen Bilkis and Associates.