28 Jun 20

NY Penal Law § 135.65: Coercion in the First Degree

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Last Updated on: 5th August 2023, 01:32 am

Coercion is a criminal offense that entails one person forcing another person to do, or to refrain from doing something against that individual’s will. Coercion customarily involves some type of threat, including but not limited to the threat of physical violence, of damaging a person’s physical property or the exposing a secret. According to New York Penal Law § 135.65, you could be charged and prosecuted for the crime of coercion in the first degree if you attempt to force someone to do something by threatening to:


  • Cause them physical injury
  • Cause damage to their property


Or you by the use of threats you compel someone to:


  • Commit a felony offense,
  • Actually cause physical injury to another person, or
  • Violate his or her obligation as a public servant.


For Example

Shameka is a recovering drug addict who recently had a relapse. On top of that, she was in the process of trying to keep custody of her young daughter. Jaime, Shameka’s drug dealer, was aware that Shameka had relapsed. Jaime asked Shameka to assist him with some drug sales. Shameka refused to comply. Jaime told Shameka that if she did not do as he asked, he would tell Shameka’s ex-husband that Shameka was doing drugs again.  As a result, Shameka would not be able to retain custody of her daughter. Jaime could certainly be convicted of coercion in the first degree.  The charge would be valid because he was attempting to compel Shameka to commit a crime by threatening to disclose that Shameka is again using drugs.


Offenses that are Related

Coercion in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 135.60

Bribery in the first degree: New York Penal Law § 200.04

Bribery in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 200.03

Bribery in the third degree: New York Penal Law § 200.00


Possible Defenses

If you face a charge of coercion in the first degree on the basis of someone suffering a physical injury, the prosecutor will have the burden to prove that you did physically injure someone or that you induced someone to physically injure another individual. The type of injury that person sustained must be a physical injury as delineated in the criminal statute. In other words, the injury they sustained has to be more than simply a minor bruise that disappears after a couple of days. If you were charged with coercion based on having forced a person to commit a felony, a plausible defense is that the individual who committed the felony did it of his or her own free will.  If you can demonstrate that you did not force or induce that individual to commit that crime, then the charge could not be valid.


The Sentence

Since coercion in the first degree is categorized as a class D felony, the maximum sentence is 7 years in prison. Whether or not you are sent to jail and the length of time you must spend behind bars will depend largely on your prior criminal record. If you have no prior felony convictions on your record from within the previous 10 years, it is possible for the judge to not sentence you to any prison time. Instead, your sentence may be a 5 year probation term. If you do have a minimum of one prior felony conviction within the last 10 years, the judge can sentence you to at least 2-4 years in jail.