The Second Department, reversing County Court, determined the upward departure from the presumptive risk level was not authorized. The facts were not discussed but the applicable law was clearly explained:
Once the presumptive risk level has been established at a risk level hearing, the court is permitted to depart from it if “special circumstances” warrant a departure … . An upward departure is permitted only if the court concludes, upon clear and convincing evidence, that there exists an aggravating factor of a kind, or to a degree, that is otherwise not adequately taken into account by the Guidelines … .
“Under SORA, a court must follow three analytical steps to determine whether or not to order a departure from the presumptive risk level indicated by the offender’s guidelines factor score. At the first step, the court must decide whether the aggravating or mitigating circumstances alleged by a party seeking a departure are, as a matter of law, of a kind or to a degree not adequately taken into account by the guidelines” … . “At the second step, the court must decide whether the party requesting the departure has adduced sufficient evidence to meet its burden of proof in establishing that the alleged aggravating or mitigating circumstances actually exist in the case at hand. If the party applying for a departure surmounts the first two steps, the law permits a departure, but the court still has discretion to refuse to depart or to grant a departure” (id. [citations omitted]). If, however, the People do not satisfy the first two requirements, the court does not have the discretion to upwardly depart from the presumptive risk level … .
Under the circumstances presented, the People did not meet their burden of proof with respect to the first two requirements. Therefore, an upward departure was not authorized … . People v Cassarly, 2017 NY Slip Op 05251, 2nd Dept 6-28-17