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People v. Henderson, 1999 N.Y. Int. 0011 (February 16, 1999).

CRIMINAL LAW - ACCUSATORY INSTRUMENT - SUFFICIENCY


ISSUE & DISPOSITION

Issue

Whether an information -- a misdemeanor complaint supplemented by a supporting deposition -- filed in local criminal Court was sufficient on its face when it stated, in pertinent part, that Defendant: "acting together and in concert with an unapprehended individual, did intentionally injur[e] the informant, and did attempt to steal property from the informant, in that the defendant and the other individual did grab the informant's motor scooter, and did attempt to pull said scooter from the informant and the defendant and the other individual did then kick the informant about the legs, causing the informant to suffer contusions and swelling about the legs, as well as causing informant to suffer substantial pain, alarm and annoyance."

Disposition

Yes. The factual allegations contained in the accusatory instrument were sufficient to make out a prima facie case of assault and support the judgment of conviction based upon defendant's guilty plea.

SUMMARY

Defendant was arrested and charged with third degree assault, attempted petit larceny, resisting arrest and harassment. Defendant pled guilty in New York City Criminal Court to third degree assault, which requires the intent to cause and the result of physical injury. The Appellate Term dismissed the underlying information, a complaint supplemented by a deposition of the victim, because it found the factual allegations were insufficient with regard to whether Defendant caused the requisite physical injury. The Appellate Term therefore reversed the judgment of conviction on the law. The Court of Appeals granted the People leave to appeal and reversed and reinstated the judgment of conviction.

The section of the deposition at issue stated that the defendant and another individual kicked the informant about the legs and thereby caused the informant to suffer contusions and swelling as well as substantial pain. Normally, a deposition such as this is secured within hours or days of the events in order to satisfy the requirement for a valid information. The victim may not be aware at that point of the long-term effects of the injury. Because of this, the allegations must be deemed sufficient to support a facially valid local criminal Court information as well as to constitute "physical injury" which is defined by law as impairment of physical condition or substantial pain. A jury could infer that the victim felt substantial pain if the allegations in the deposition were accepted as true.

The Court of Appeals used several guidelines in order to determine that the accusatory instrument was facially sufficient. Under CPL 100.40(1), in order to be facially sufficient, an information must adhere to the form and content requirements of CPL 100.15; contain factual allegations which provide reasonable cause to believe that the defendant committed the offense charged; and contain non-hearsay allegations which, if true, establish every element of the offense charged and the defendant's commission thereof.

Therefore, in order for the information in the instant case to be sufficient, the information must set forth factual allegations which would warrant the conclusion that the victim suffered impairment of physical condition or substantial pain. Under such standards, the statement made by the deponent established a prima facie case of assault in the third degree and in particular satisfies the "physical injury" element of that offense. The Court held that a jury could reasonably infer that the victim felt substantial pain.


Prepared by the liibulletin-ny Editorial Board.