Friday, August 9, 2013

Ithaca Cortland Lawyer: Judging Harms from Legal versus Illegal Behavior

I love Orwell, law is dynamic and sometimes unfair  from

Our society loves to lament Legal = Good, Illegal = Bad, kinda like George Orwell's Animal Farm, two legs baaaad, four legs good.

Legal Substances and Behavior Are Not Always Good

Alcohol is legal. It is acceptable. It is prevalent. And it also one of the most harmful drugs (overall) we have. This is not just my viewpoint, this based on the damage (long term and short) it does to families and communities nationwide.

Alcohol is legal and yet marijuana (still illegal in NYS) is demonized. How many mean pot heads do you know? How many people stoned on weed want to cause destruction to property or beat up people?

I see behavior everyday that is legal, and yet extremely dangerous.

Ithaca Car by Tops, I waited two traffic light cycles before she moved,
This woman's car is so stuffed with garbage it barely allows her room to see and drive.

I asked the Ithaca police about cars like these, ones filled with trash. The IPD (Ithaca Police Department) say, "it's legal Newman."

Obviously these people (there are many) suffer from some form of mental illness but this should not be legal. It is not safe, and these people have a high likelihood of crashing into all of us.

I represent people charged by police with a host of offenses, many are not consistent or in alignment with their behavior. In my opinion sometimes the police are way off base, they charge crimes with nothing to back it all up. The facts don't add up to the crime.

Is this Reckless Driving?

I recently had a young grad who bought a new car and then made circles in a private parking lot.
The facts, this was not a public highway. No people were standing near the car. The lot was completely vacant. It was late. He drove round and round at a slow rate of speed. He was not on anything. He was just "testing" his car like a scientist.

Police arrested and charged him with the criminal misdemeanor of reckless driving VTL 1212.

What he did, maybe it was inappropriate, maybe it was careless, maybe it was stupid, but really was it criminal behavior? Did it rise to that level? Reckless driving in New York State requires:

Under NYS VTL 1212:

Reckless driving shall mean driving or using any motor vehicle, motorcycle or any other vehicle propelled by any power other than muscular power or any appliance or accessory thereof in a manner which unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway, or unreasonably endangers users of the public highway. Reckless driving is prohibited. Every person violating this provision shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

The Penal Law defines reckless conduct as follows:

A person acts recklessly with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists.

The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard thereof constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. [PL §15.05(3)]

From Wikipedia:

Under United States law, reckless driving is a major moving traffic violation. It is usually a more serious offense than careless driving, improper driving, or driving without due care and attention and is often punishable by fines, imprisonment, and/or driver's license suspension or revocation.

He didn't do this!!  fm

Well we eventually got that charge dismissed but think about it, as a society we need to think about preventing harm, alleviating harm, and the potential for harm. Some of our laws, and more importantly the police application of that may not be effectively accomplishing that goal.

Lawrence (Larry) Newman
Doctor of Chiropractic
Attorney and Counselor at Law