NYS Penal Law
New York State Consolidated Laws
Article 15 - NY Penal Law
S 15.00 Culpability; definitions of terms.
The following definitions are applicable to this chapter:
1. "Act" means a bodily movement.
2. "Voluntary act" means a bodily movement performed consciously as a
result of effort or determination, and includes the possession of
property if the actor was aware of his physical possession or control
thereof for a sufficient period to have been able to terminate it.
3. "Omission" means a failure to perform an act as to which a duty of
performance is imposed by law.
4. "Conduct" means an act or omission and its accompanying mental state.
5. "To act" means either to perform an act or to omit to perform an act.
6. "Culpable mental state" means "intentionally" or "knowingly" or
"recklessly" or with "criminal negligence, " as these terms are
defined in section 15.05.
S 15.05 Culpability; definitions of culpable mental states.
The following definitions are applicable to this chapter:
1. "Intentionally." A person acts intentionally with respect to a
result or to conduct described by a statute defining an offense when his
conscious objective is to cause such result or to engage in such
2. "Knowingly." A person acts knowingly with respect to conduct or to
a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he is
aware that his conduct is of such nature or that such circumstance
3. "Recklessly." A person acts recklessly with respect to a result or
to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he is
aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk
that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists. The risk
must be of such nature and degree that disregard thereof constitutes a
gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person
would observe in the situation. A person who creates such a risk but is
unaware thereof solely by reason of voluntary intoxication also acts
recklessly with respect thereto.
4. "Criminal negligence." A person acts with criminal negligence with
respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining
an offense when he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable
risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists. The
risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it
constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a
reasonable person would observe in the situation.
S 15.10 Requirements for criminal liability in general and for
offenses of strict liability and mental culpability.
The minimal requirement for criminal liability is the performance by a
person of conduct which includes a voluntary act or the omission to
perform an act which he is physically capable of performing. If such
conduct is all that is required for commission of a particular offense,
or if an offense or some material element thereof does not require a
culpable mental state on the part of the actor, such offense is one of
"strict liability. " If a culpable mental state on the part of the actor
is required with respect to every material element of an offense, such
offense is one of "mental culpability."
S 15.15 Construction of statutes with respect to culpability
1. When the commission of an offense defined in this chapter, or some
element of an offense, requires a particular culpable mental state, such
mental state is ordinarily designated in the statute defining the
offense by use of the terms "intentionally," "knowingly," "recklessly"
or "criminal negligence," or by use of terms, such as "with intent to
defraud" and "knowing it to be false," describing a specific kind of
intent or knowledge. When one and only one of such terms appears in a
statute defining an offense, it is presumed to apply to every element of
the offense unless an intent to limit its application clearly appears.
2. Although no culpable mental state is expressly designated in a
statute defining an offense, a culpable mental state may nevertheless be
required for the commission of such offense, or with respect to some or
all of the material elements thereof, if the proscribed conduct
necessarily involves such culpable mental state. A statute defining a
crime, unless clearly indicating a legislative intent to impose strict
liability, should be construed as defining a crime of mental
culpability. This subdivision applies to offenses defined both in and
outside this chapter.
S 15.20 Effect of ignorance or mistake upon liability.
1. A person is not relieved of criminal liability for conduct because
he engages in such conduct under a mistaken belief of fact, unless:
(a) Such factual mistake negatives the culpable mental state required
for the commission of an offense; or
(b) The statute defining the offense or a statute related thereto
expressly provides that such factual mistake constitutes a defense or
(c) Such factual mistake is of a kind that supports a defense of
justification as defined in article thirty-five of this chapter.
2. A person is not relieved of criminal liability for conduct because
he engages in such conduct under a mistaken belief that it does not, as
a matter of law, constitute an offense, unless such mistaken belief is
founded upon an official statement of the law contained in (a) a statute
or other enactment, or (b) an administrative order or grant of
permission, or (c) a judicial decision of a state or federal court, or
(d) an interpretation of the statute or law relating to the offense,
officially made or issued by a public servant, agency or body legally
charged or empowered with the responsibility or privilege of
administering, enforcing or interpreting such statute or law.
3. Notwithstanding the use of the term "knowingly" in any provision of
this chapter defining an offense in which the age of a child is an
element thereof, knowledge by the defendant of the age of such child is
not an element of any such offense and it is not, unless expressly so
provided, a defense to a prosecution therefor that the defendant did not
know the age of the child or believed such age to be the same as or
greater than that specified in the statute.
4. Notwithstanding the use of the term "knowingly" in any provision of
this chapter defining an offense in which the aggregate weight of a
controlled substance or marihuana is an element, knowledge by the
defendant of the aggregate weight of such controlled substance or
marihuana is not an element of any such offense and it is not, unless
expressly so provided, a defense to a prosecution therefor that the
defendant did not know the aggregate weight of the controlled substance
S 15.25 Effect of intoxication upon liability.
Intoxication is not, as such, a defense to a criminal charge; but in
any prosecution for an offense, evidence of intoxication of the
defendant may be offered by the defendant whenever it is relevant to
negative an element of the crime charged.
Top of Page
Penal Law - Table of Contents
- A comprehensive on-line digest of New York's criminal code.