18 Buff. L. Rev. 269 (1968-1969)
New York Penal Law: A Prosecutor's Evaluation, The

handle is hein.journals/buflr18 and id is 277 raw text is: THE NEW YORK PENAL LAW: A PROSECUTOR'S EVALUATION
HowAmD A. LEViNE*
I. INTRODUCTION
T HE New York Penal Law became effective September 1, 1967. Even cursory
comparison of this statute with the 224 articles and more than 1200 sections
of specific provisions in the former law leads one to view as an understatement
Governor Rockefeller's description of the new law as the first major and
comprehensive revision of the Penal Law since 1881.1 The extended lack of
attention to criminal law revision in New York was surprising in that the sub-
stantive law of crime of any society must be considered its most fundamental
and basic instrument of social control. As Professor Herbert Wechsler, Chief
Reporter for the American Law Institute's Model Penal Code, and a charter
member of the New York State Temporary Commission on Revision of the
Penal Law and Criminal Code has recently stated:
The aim of the whole process after all is to define and within reasonable
limits to enforce what Professor Henry M. Hart aptly calls those
minimum obligations of conduct which the conditions of community
life impose upon every participating member if community life is to
be maintained and to prosper.'2
This writer has served continuously as a prosecutor since 1961 in an in-
dustrialized community, having a population of roughly 160,000. The city is
fairly typical of up-state urban counties. During this experience, ample op-
portunity has been afforded to form a professional opinion of New York's
attempt to redefine and enforce those minimal obligations of conduct. Of
course, since the new Penal Law is still in the infancy of its operation, any
conclusion must still be tentative. Judicial interpretation of the new law's
provisions must be awaited to determine how well it will actually operate. Also,
interdisciplinary analyses of crime rate statistics, trends and other pertinent data
should be undertaken and continued to determine whether the new law is ful-
fulling an overall deterrent purpose.
This article is an evaluation of the new Penal Law based on the above
experience. Initially, the structural draftsmanship of the new law is discussed.
This is followed by an analysis of the practical importance of the substantive
changes which the new law has enacted. Finally, some questions, criticisms, and
general conclusions concerning the new Penal Law are offered.
The basic premise of this evaluation is that a penal law cannot be success-
ful unless it can be understood and applied with reasonable ease. Obviously
* B.A., LL.B. Yale University; District Attorney, Schenectady County, New York.
1. N.Y. Penal Law, Governor's memorandum at XXXV (McKinney 1967) [hereinafter
cited as N.Y. Pen. Law]. See also, Legis. Doc., No., 41, p. 8 (1962).
2. Wechsler, Codification of Criminal Law in the United States: The Model Penal Code,
68 Colum. L. Rev. 1425, 1431 (1968).

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