This involves a case where the Court of Appeals concluded that defendant acted with intent to prevent an emergency medical technician (EMT) from performing a lawful duty when he caused an EMT to suffer physical injury.
On the day before Christmas 2006 at about 2:20 A.M., two emergency medical technicians were dispatched by ambulance in response to a call for medical assistance for a woman who injured her hand and a man who suffered a bleeding face in a fight. Upon arriving in the location, the EMTs observed about 15 people in the apartment, as well as beer cans and coolers, causing the victim EMT to conclude that there had been “a party of some sorts.” The injured woman complained of pain in her right hand, on which she had placed an ice pack; she told the EMTs that “she had been in a verbal altercation with somebody, and punched a wall with her right hand.” The EMTs did not see and were not directed to or approached by anyone bleeding from the face. After treating the woman, the EMTs left the apartment and head back to the ambulance.
As one of the EMTs was about to climbed into the ambulance, defendant came to him and threw a beer can to the EMT’s head (assault). Defendant hit him in the back of the head, grabbed his sweater collar and threw him to the ground, where he landed face up. Defendant kneeled down on one knee and struck the EMT on his face two or three times with a closed hand. Defendant was charged criminally from the assault. Defendant argued that he could not be convicted with the crime charged since the EMTs were not performing a lawful duty since the EMTs had finished their duty upon which they were called.
The issue to be resolved is whether or not it was legally sufficient to establish that defendant acted with intent to prevent an emergency medical technician (EMT) “from performing a lawful duty” when he caused an EMT to suffer physical injury.
Under Section 120.05 (3), adopted in 1965 as part of the revised Penal Law, originally provided that a person was guilty of second-degree assault, a class D felony, when “[w]ith intent to prevent a peace officer from performing a lawful duty, he causes physical injury to such peace officer.” Through the years, the Legislature has extended the statute’s coverage to numerous categories of public servants exposed to a heightened risk of violence because of the fraught circumstances in which they must often perform their job duties. “The rationale [underlying section 120.05 (3)] is to give people who provide public services, during the performance of those services, the protection which may be afforded by the deterrent effect of higher penalties” (Donnino, Practice Commentary, McKinney’s Cons. Laws of N.Y., Book 39, Penal Law art 120, at 209 ). The Legislature accomplished this by classifying as second-degree assault attacks on certain public servants doing their jobs in a lawful manner where an assailant intended thereby to disrupt their job performance.
The Court held that the victim was performing the routine job duties of an EMT in a lawful manner when he attempted to leave premises where he had furnished medical assistance, whether he was then on his way to another call or to his home base at the hospital. The People were not required to prove that defendant intended to injure the victim. Even so, the ferocity and persistence of his attack on the EMT might have reasonably caused the court to decide that he intended to interfere with the EMT’s performance of his job duties as an EMT. As the jury heard, the victim was, in fact, unable to return to work for three weeks after defendant assaulted him. And the jurors were certainly entitled to disbelieve that defendant was too intoxicated to form an intent to prevent the victim from performing a lawful duty.
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