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New York Criminal Penalties

If you have been arrested for a crime in New York, you may worry that you are going to spend the next 15 years to life in prison. Not every crime carries the same penalty, however, and many do not carry mandatory prison sentences. New York criminal law establishes penalty ranges for criminal convictions based on the type and severity of the crimes. The New York criminal defense attorneys at Dupée & Monroe, P.C. have years of experience fighting for the rights of the accused and, where necessary, negotiating fair sentences for the convicted. If you or a loved one has been arrested in the Hudson Valley, Dupée & Monroe is here for you. Below we provide an overview of the penalties for New York criminal convictions.


Violations are minor infractions that do not rise to the level of misdemeanors. Violations do not result in criminal convictions and include activities such as trespass, loitering, indecent exposure of a person, and certain minor drug offenses such as unlawful possession of a small quantity of marijuana.

Convictions for violations can still result in up to 15 days in jail as well as fines and community service. Even though violations are not severe, it is still strongly advised that you retain a criminal attorney if you are charged with a violation. It is always invaluable to have someone protecting your rights and ensuring that you are not overly punished for a minor infraction.


Misdemeanors include crimes that are more serious than violations but which do not merit long prison sentences. Misdemeanors, by definition, cannot be punished by more than a year in jail. Misdemeanors are broken down into classes. The penalty range for each class of misdemeanor is as follows:

  • Class A misdemeanor: Up to one year in jail, and up to $1,000 in fines
  • Class B misdemeanor: Up to three months in jail, and up to $500 in fines
  • Unclassified: Between 16 days and one year in jail

Class A misdemeanors include petit larceny and unlicensed gun possession. Class B misdemeanors include minor crimes such as unlawful assembly and prostitution. Unclassified misdemeanors are any offenses not listed in New York’s Penal Law, other than a traffic violation, that are punishable by imprisonment of between 16 days and a year. Unclassified misdemeanors include aggravated unlicensed driving, driving while impaired (DWI), and reckless driving.


Felony punishment is reserved for the most serious of crimes. Felonies carry the highest penalties and include crimes such as homicide, robbery, burglary, grand larceny, aggravated assault, and serious fraud. If you have been accused of a felony, it is vital that you retain a seasoned and zealous criminal defense attorney to defend your case. The most severe penalties for felonies include life in prison. Often the same crime can be punishable as a different class of felony depending on the circumstances and the severity of the crime.

Felonies are broken down into Classes A through E and are further divided between violent and nonviolent crimes. In addition to heavy fines, the various felony classes can be punished by imprisonment in the following ranges:

  • Class A Violent Felony: 20-25 years, up to Life
  • Class B Violent Felony: 5-25 years
  • Class B Non-Violent Felony: 1-3 years, up to 25 years
  • Class C Violent Felony: 3 1/2 to 15 years
  • Class C Non-Violent Felony: No Jail, Probation, 1-2 years to 15 years
  • Class D Violent Felony: 2-7 years
  • Class D Non-Violent Felony: No Jail, Probation, 1-3 to 7 years
  • Class E Violent Felony: No Jail, Probation, 1 1/2 to 4 years
  • Class E Non-Violent Felony: No Jail, Probation, 1 1/3 to 4 years


“Wobblers” are crimes that can be punished as a misdemeanor or as a felony depending on the circumstances and the severity of the crime. New York statutes provide certain specific elements that dictate whether a crime should be charged as a felony or misdemeanor:   Many drug offenses are wobblers, punishable as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the quantity of drugs charged. Forgery is a wobbler, punishable as a felony depending on the type of documents forged. Larceny can be charged as petit larceny, a misdemeanor, or felony grand larceny, depending on the amount stolen.

Although the specific factors are listed in New York statutes, in practice whether a wobbler crime is charged as a misdemeanor or felony depends on the prosecutor’s choice and the judge’s ultimate decision. Prosecutors are often willing to negotiate a plea deal under which, for example, they will only seek conviction based on a certain quantity of drugs possessed, even though they could technically charge a greater quantity and seek felony charges. A skilled criminal defense attorney can help knock down felony charges to misdemeanor charges where possible.

The Death Penalty/Capital Punishment

New York State officially abolished the death penalty in 2007, following a 2004 New York Court of Appeals decision ruling that capital punishment violated the state’s constitution. No New York crime is punishable by death.

Federal law, however, still permits the death penalty. Capital punishment is a legal penalty for federal crimes including treason, espionage, murder, large-scale drug trafficking, or attempted murder of a witness, juror, or court officer under certain circumstances. The penalty is rarely imposed; only 60 inmates currently reside on federal death row, and no executions have been carried out since 2003. Unfortunately, President Trump recently announced his intentions to revive the death penalty and move forward with executing the federal inmates currently on death row.

Get Help from Experienced Attorneys for Your New York Arrest

The lawyers at Dupée & Monroe have decades of experience helping people like you avoid the most serious consequences which can arise from any New York criminal conviction. If you have been arrested for a state or federal crime in Goshen, Orange County or anywhere in the Hudson Valley region, contact Dupée & Monroe, P.C. at 845-294-8900 for immediate assistance from experienced criminal defense attorneys.

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