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Physical injury, as used in the Penal Law, means impairment of physical condition or substantial pain. Penal Law § 10.00(9). Substantial pain cannot be defined precisely, but it can be said that it is more than slight or trivial pain. Pain need not, however, be severe or intense to be substantial. Beyond these generalizations, there are several factual aspects of a case that can be examined to decide whether enough pain was shown to support a finding of substantiality. Perhaps most important is the injury defendant inflicted, viewed objectively.
Defendant James Chiddick committed the burglary in the building where the victim, Adrian Gentles, was working. The victim then confronted him and the two scuffled. When defendant tried to escape the victim's hold on him, defendant bit the victim on the left ring finger and fled. The victim indicated that the bite caused his fingernail to crack and his finger to bleed, that he even went to a hospital and received a tetanus shot and a bandage. The victim testified that the pain he suffered was moderate. A jury convicted defendant on several charges, including second degree burglary (Penal Law § 140.25) and second degree assault. Defendant challenged his convictions arguing that the element of physical injury to the victim as defined in Penal Law § 10.00(9) had not been proven.
Was appellant’s contention that proof of physical injury lacking meritorious?
The court affirmed defendant’s convictions and ruled that while substantial pain could not be defined precisely, the court found that the pain did not need to be severe or intense to be substantial. In this case, based on the objective view of the injury, which would normally bring with it more than a little pain, and the victim's subjective description of the pain as well as the fact that the victim sought medical treatment, the court held that a physical injury had been demonstrated. The court concluded that defendant's motive was also relevant as he was seeking to make the victim let go of him and, thus, sought to inflict as much pain as he could.