The Third Department, in the context of a family offense, determined the portions of the second degree harassment statute which state the subdivision does not apply “to activities regulated by the national labor relations act, as amended, the railway labor act, as amended, or the federal employment labor management act, as amended” (Penal Law § 240.26…)” were “provisos.” The respondent argued that the labor and railroad provisions in the statute were “exceptions” which must be affirmatively pled and negated in the charging document. The Third Department found the provisions were “provisos” which can be asserted as defenses, but which do not have to be pled:
“The general rule regarding statutory crimes is that 'exceptions must be negatived by the prosecution and provisos utilized as a matter of defense'” … . In attempting to distinguish between exceptions and provisos, courts will look to whether the defining statute “contains as part of its enacting clause an exception to the effect that under certain circumstances the offense is not to be considered as having been committed” … , in which case a true exception generally will be found, or whether the exception arises either by way of a statutory amendment or reference to a statute outside of the Penal Law, in which case the exception generally will be regarded as a proviso … .
As originally enacted, Penal Law § 240.26 did not contain the exclusionary language at issue; such language was added when the statute was amended in 1994 (see L 1994, ch 109, § 1) to “clarif[y] that activities protected by certain federal labor statutes are not included within the definition of harassment” (Governor's Approval Mem, Bill Jacket, L 1994, ch 109, at 7). Further, as a review of the statute itself makes clear, application of the exclusionary language requires reference to numerous federal statutes outside of the Penal Law. Under these circumstances, the language excluding certain labor activities or disputes from the definition of harassment in the second degree “is more accurately construed as a proviso, which may be raised as a defense [by the charged party], rather than an exception, which must be [affirmatively] pleaded” and negated by the charging party … . Matter of Rogers v Phillips, 2016 NY Slip Op 02687, 3rd Dept 4-7-16