Confronting a case in which the mandatory minimum sentencing laws resulted in a draconian sentence, the Appellate Division, First Department unanimously reversed the second-degree robbery conviction of OAD client Janine Adams. Ms. Adams had been sentenced to 16 years to life in prison for shoplifting infant formula and cigars from a drugstore, and allegedly biting and scratching the store security guard who tried to stop her.

New York’s “mandatory persistent” sentencing scheme resulted in this extremely harsh sentence for Ms. Adams. Because she had two prior convictions from well over a decade ago for felonies that were classified as violent, the minimum sentence for which Ms. Adams was eligible was a prison term of 16 years to life.

On appeal, OAD argued that the prosecution failed to prove that the security guard suffered physical injury, an essential element of second-degree robbery. The Court agreed, and reduced the conviction to robbery in the third degree, a non-violent felony.

Now, instead of 16 years to life, Ms. Adams is eligible for a prison sentence of no more than three and onehalf to seven years. Ms. Adams is represented by Staff Attorney Salina Kanai and Deputy Attorney-in-Charge Sara Gurwitch.