In response to the recent mass shootings, the New York State Legislature has an opportunity to be in the forefront in the fight against gun violence by strengthening New York’s gun control laws. In a joint report entitled Continuing to Strengthen New York’s Gun Laws, the Committees on Criminal Advocacy and Criminal Law discuss the various gun control measures being proposed both in New York and nationally. The report notes that the passage of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (“SAFE Act”), though a laudable first step to curb gun violence, should be further amended to strengthen its reach and impact. The report goes on to comment on an array of proposed legislation which would among other things: 1) establish a longer waiting period for the purchase of any firearm; 2) prohibit the purchase of more than one firearm during any thirty-day period; 3) require mircrostamping on new semiautomatic firearms; and 4) redefine the terms “armor piercing ammunition” and “disguised gun.” At the federal level, the report expresses opposition to H.R. 578, which would force each state to accept concealed handgun carry permits from every other state, even if the permit holder would not be allowed to carry or even possess a handgun in the state in which he or she is traveling.
Youthful Offender Status
The Committee on Criminal Justice Operations expressed support for A.1794, which would amend the Criminal Procedure Law to increase the age of eligibility for youthful offender status from age 18 to 21. Granting youthful offender status means that an eligible youth who is adjudicated a youthful offender does not have a criminal conviction and can avoid the collateral consequences and stigma of a criminal record, and allows the court, for a felony offense, to impose either a probationary sentence or a period of incarceration substantially lower than would otherwise be required. Recent neurological research, the report notes, has shown that brain development continues through an individual’s early twenties and that the abilities to control impulses and make mature judgments are among the last to develop. Because of this, young people should be held to a different standard when they commit a crime.
Seizure of Condoms as Evidence
The Committee on AIDS expressed support for A.2736/S.1379, which would prohibit police and prosecutors from introducing condoms as evidence of prostitution-related offenses in criminal proceedings. Mounting evidence suggests that the practice of police seizure of condoms as evidence of prostitution-related offenses, and introduction of condoms as evidence of prostitution-related offenses in criminal proceedings, undermine New York’s efforts to fight HIV and AIDS by deterring people, particularly members of groups at high risk for sexually transmitted disease, from using these condoms. Amending the existing law as proposed by this legislation, the report notes, is essential to the promotion of public health and human rights.
Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill
The Committee on Animal Law expressed support for A.775/S.1776 (the Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill), which would relocate many of the criminal provisions currently found in the Agriculture and Markets Law to a new Title Q in the Penal Law. The bill also re-defines statutory terms, creates new statutory terms, re-titles animal crimes offenses, reclassifies existing animal crimes, delineates sentencing provisions, and introduces various new animal crimes offenses and creates a hierarchy of offenses for charging, plea-bargaining, and sentencing purposes. The Committee believes such a change would clarify, modernize, and restructure the animal crimes law of New York State and promote greater enforcement and consistent interpretation of animal crimes.
Theft of a Companion Animal or Pet
The Committee on Animal Law expressed support for A.1643/S.2336-A, which would amend the Penal Law to provide for first and second degree felony offenses for the theft of a companion animal or pet. The proposed legislation would create a second degree felony offense where a person steals a companion animal or pet and a first degree felony offense where a person commits pet theft in the second degree and either 1) the stolen pet or companion animal is sold for scientific research purposes or 2) the person who stole the pet or companion animal with no justifiable purpose…intentionally kills or intentionally causes serious physical injury to such companion animal or pet with aggravated cruelty.