Posted On: April 19, 2012 by Stephen Bilkis

The Court Decides if a Bus Driver Has an Avocational Relationship with His Victims

In a case of the People of the State of New York, Respondent v. James D. C, Defendant-Appellant, the Supreme Court decided a sex crime case on November 19, 2010. The issue centered around the order determining that the defendant is a Level 3 risk according to the Sex Offender Registration Act. In this case, the order was affirmed without costs.

The defendant claimed that the County Court erred in failing to set forth its findings of fact and conclusions of law. The Supreme Court ruled that the County Court did fail to do so, but the Court concluded that the defendant’s record was sufficient for the Court to make a decision of fact and conclusions of the law. The Supreme Court also rejected the defendant’s claim that the court was wrong in assessing 20 points for his relationship to the victims. The 25 points given to him under the risk factor for drug or alcohol abuse was also rejected as an error made by the county court. The case summary established the fact that the defendant was employed as a bus driver of mentally disabled women at the time of the sex crimes. He selected the three victims, believing that they were incapable of reporting the sex crimes according to the interview by the Board. Because he had a professional relationship with the three victims, the 20 points were justifiably assessed.

The Court also determined that due to the defendant’s history of drug and alcohol abuse, beginning with the consumption of alcohol at age 11, the use of marijuana by the age of 14, and the fact that he used other drugs as well were evidence of his history of drug and alcohol abuse. The defendant also reported using LSD and angel dust for around seven years and that he was addicted to marijuana, alcohol, and cocaine. These facts justified the assessment of 25 points with respect to that risk factor related to his sex crimes.

The defense also dissented with the assessment of 20 points for the defendant’s relationship with the victims. The guidelines for assessing point in this category allow 20 points if the sex crime was directed towards someone the defendant does not know. These points may also be assessed if the sex crime offender developed a relationship with the victims for the purpose of victimizing them. The county court had assessed 20 points after finding that the defendant was in an “an avocational profession.” It was agreed that the defendant did not direct the sex crimes at strangers. Also, there was no evidence that he became a bus driver to access the victims to commit sex crimes.

The Court did agree with the assessment of the 20 points in this case because the victims of the sex crimes were not in “an avocational professional” relationship with the bus driver. The Court found that professionals such as bankers, lawyers, dentists, and others that the victims relied on in a professional relationship would be considered to have this relationship with the victims, but the bus driver’s relationship with them was different. There was no proof that the sex crime victims sought out the bus drive because of his skills in driving a bus like someone would seek a healthcare provider or other professional for this reason. The defendant was assessed zero points for this risk factor because of this.

After the Court’s ruling, the sex crime offender had 100 points assessed against him, making him a Level 2 risk. The Court ordered that his score be lowered to 100 points from that point on.