Brief Fact Summary.
Newton (Defendant) was on an airplane that made an unscheduled landing in New York. Defendant was found to have a firearm and was convicted under New York’s law prohibiting carrying a firearm on an airplane. He appealed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
A defendant cannot be convicted unless his criminal act was voluntary.
Defendant carried a firearm onto an airplane that was not scheduled to land anywhere in the United States. The pilot made an emergency stop in New York, where the firearm was found by police. Defendant was convicted under New York’s law prohibiting carrying a firearm on an airplane. Defendant appealed.
Can a conviction be based upon an involuntary criminal act?
(Weinstein, J.) No. A defendant cannot be convicted unless his criminal act was voluntary. Defendant had no intention of going to New York. His presence there was entirely caused by another person. The violation of the New York statute was involuntary and the conviction cannot stand. Reversed.
Courts have the duty to give effect to statutes as they are written and that we may not limit or extend the scope of the statute as written unless literal construction of the statute would produce a result which the Legislature plainly did not intend.View Full Point of Law
It could be argued that the criminal act was carrying the firearm on the airplane itself, not doing so in New York. This act was certainly voluntary, and once committed, the actor must deal with the ensuing consequences. The opinion also hints at the fact that the pilot may have made the stop because he became aware of the firearm.