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NY Penal Law § 145.20: Criminal Tampering in the First Degree

There are certain services available to the public that are so essential that if they are disrupted the impact could be devastating. For example, a blackout could make it difficult for individuals to conduct every day activities, course financial losses for businesses, and cripple hospitals. While most cases of widespread loss of services have been due to the weather, technical problems or human error, on occasion they are due to tampering. Under New York Penal Law § 145.20 it is against the law to intentionally cause the disruption of the following services or the services of the following types of businesses:

  • gas
  • electric
  • sewer
  • steam or water-works
  • telephone or telegraph
  • common carrier
  • nuclear powered electric generating facility
  • public utility operated by a municipality or district

Julius was a long-time employee of the electric company. However, he was recently laid off with about 100 other employees as the utility sought to reorganize and into increase efficiency. Julius was angry about the situation. As an act of revenge, on his last day of work he turned 30 knobs on a bank of transformers in a substation to the open position. The result was that energy was drained from the transformers. Soon a large area experienced a blackout-- about 100,000 residences and businesses were without power for nearly 5 hours. Julius's actions could result in him being prosecuted for criminal tampering in the first degree.

Related Offenses
  1. Tampering with a consumer product in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 145.40
  2. Tampering with a consumer product in the first degree: New York Penal Law § 145.45
  3. Theft of services: New York Penal Law § 165.15

If you actions that resulted in an interruption of service were accidental, then you would not be convicted of criminal tampering. The statute requires intent. The statute also applies to only specific types of companies. If the company involves was not a covered business, than the statute does not apply. For example, if you are accused of tampering that resulted in the disruption of cable television service, you may have a defense to a charge of criminal tampering in the first degree.


Criminal tampering in the first degree is a class D felony. If you are convicted your sentence could include up to 7 years in prison as well as a fine. It is also possible that the judge will choose to sentence you to a probation term of 5 years instead of sending you to prison.

New York Penal Law § 145.20: Criminal Tampering in the First Degree

A person is guilty of criminal tampering in the first degree when, with intent to cause a substantial interruption or impairment of a service rendered to the public, and having no right to do so nor any reasonable ground to believe that he or she has such right, he or she damages or tampers with property of a gas, electric, sewer, steam or water-works corporation, telephone or telegraph corporation, common carrier, nuclear powered electric generating facility, or public utility operated by a municipality or district, and thereby causes such substantial interruption or impairment of service.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you or a loved one have been charged with criminal tampering in the first degree, it is important that you have experienced representation. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been charged with criminal mischief as well as other felonies and misdemeanors such as grand larceny, burglary, and assault. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve those accused of larceny in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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