We’ve just lost another appeal where the cops, confronted with an argumentative citizen, immediately resorted to the persuasive power of fists and handcuffs. Returning to their patrol car emblazoned with the NYPD slogan, “Professionalism Courtesy Respect,” they found that their knuckles were sore from reducing Mr. Smartmouth to a pulpy mass.
The pulpy mass was charged with Obstructing Government Administration (getting his head in the way of the cops’ fists) and assaulting police officers, a very felonious felony, punished by years in prison. The cops got weeks of paid sick leave, claiming “lacerations and contusions,” “throbbing migraines,” and other hideous mutilations depriving them of the opportunity to go to work. All without the silly formality of a doctor’s exam or a photo.
The NY Legislature has always been clear that a booboo isn’t physical injury, even on a cop. To send someone to prison for years and years, you have to show they caused “impairment of a physical condition or substantial pain.” But our pals in the First Department have eagerly embraced a Court of Appeals decision called People v. Chiddick holding that “substantial” means anything that’s not “trivial.” So much for legislative intent.
Chiddick is the most eccentric decision to come out of the Court of Appeals since Hernandez v. Robles which, as you remember, reasoned that since same-sex couples can only have children by adoption or artificial insemination, it follows that their relationships are more stable than opposite-sex couples, from which it follows that they shouldn’t be allowed to marry. Yes, you read that right and we didn’t make it up.
Chiddick reasoned that a burglar who, grabbed by the macho householder, bit his finger to make him let go, intended to inflict more pain than if he just hated the guy. “Motive is relevant because an offender more interested in displaying hostility than inflicting pain will often not inflict much of it,” concluded the judge, based on his research at the water cooler. Ergo the sentence should be enhanced for causing physical injury.
So now, according to NY’s highest, “substantial pain” means anything that hurts, and a burglar trying to escape is legally presumed to intend to inflict more pain than someone who goes out and attacks a person out of hostility.
Addendum: Life overtakes parody. Cops storm peaceful Occupy Wall Street gathering, grab female protester Cecily McMillan from behind, bruising her breast. Cop’s glasses knocked askew, McMillan convicted of felony assault.