In this day and age, with computerized banking and depositing checks on a cell phone, jurisdiction in the context of financial crimes becomes a more and more difficult question for judges, criminal lawyers and prosecutors alike. This is even more pronounced in the New York City metropolitan area with multiple states and jurisdictions in close proximity including Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This jurisdiction issue raises its proverbial head when conduct occurs outside of New York, but the impact of that criminal behavior or act is felt by a resident in this state. Not an atypical scenario, a recent decision by a Queens County Supreme Court Judge, Criminal Term, further clarifies when District Attorneys have the authority to prosecute fraud and theft related cases despite the alleged conduct occurring elsewhere.
In People v. Anderson, 2787-1018, the court was tasked to determine whether or not a particular offense committed while the perpetrator was outside New York could properly be brought in Queens County and, therefore, New York had jurisdiction over the defendant. One of the easiest means to reach this conclusion was to ascertain, as the Court did here, whether or not a particular criminal offense is what is referred to as a “result offense.” Among other definitions, CPL 20.20 identifies a result offense as one where a specific consequence of the criminal action is itself an element of the crime. Common examples of results-based offenses are ones aimed at criminalizing fraud and the defrauding of other persons such the varying degrees of Identity Theft including Penal Law 190.78, 190.79 and 190.80. These crimes can be distinguished from other offenses such as Grand Larceny. While there may be some other nexus to New York, there is no specific element of Grand Larceny involving the defrauding of a victim. Instead the criminal statute focuses exclusively on the conduct of the perpetrator.
In People v. Anderson, the defendant was in New Jersey when the alleged conduct happened. The victim was in Queens County, New York. The defendant allegedly engaged in fraudulent activity, including Identity Theft, resulting in a financial loss to the victim of over $2,000. It is important to note that the Grand Jury minutes reviewed by the Court also included sufficient evidence to establish that the defendant knew that the victim resided in New York, and specifically in Queens County. Ultimately, the Court, in its decision, distinguished result-based offenses like Identity Theft, and non-result offenses like Grand Larceny. As such, the Court determined that dismissal of the Grand Larceny counts was appropriate, while dismissal of the Identity Theft and Criminal Impersonation was denied. Forgery counts, also charged in the indictment, would have otherwise survived dismissal as result offenses but for the fact that prosecutors improperly instructed the Grand Jury.
In non-legal terms, the Court’s decision demonstrated that even if all of the conduct that an accused engages in happens outside of New York, when the harm and result of that conduct occurs within the borders of this state, and within a particular county and jurisdiction, as long as that offense is one where that particular result is an element of the offense, District Attorneys in New York will be able to exercise jurisdiction over that out of state individual and over the particular charges. Without this principle being firmly established, law enforcement would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to enforce and prosecute crimes committed against residents within the state where an alleged perpetrator conducted his or her legal infractions elsewhere.
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