Criminal Justice Insider
An in-depth review and analysis and of emerging topics in both federal and New York State criminal law. This blog explores developments in substantive and procedural criminal law, providing practical insights to the latest case law and statutory changes.
New York Combats COVID Vaccination Forgery
On December 22, 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law the “Truth in Vaccination Act.” By amending certain aspects of the penal law, the “Truth in Vaccination Act” seeks to make it illegal to falsify proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
Specifically, the statute amends Penal Section 170.00, which is the definitional section for crimes relating to forgery. Under the amendment, a “written instrument,” now explicitly includes, “a card provided to a person by a vaccine provider indicating the date a person received a vaccination against COVID-19, the type of vaccine and its lot number, and bearing a government logo or other indication that it is created by a governmental instrumentality, shall be considered a written instrument.” Now there is no doubt that it is forgery, as set forth in Penal Law Section 170.05, to alter a vaccine card with an intent to deceive another. Further, it is also a crime to possess a forged vaccination card pursuant to Penal Law Section 170.20
The “Truth in Vaccination Act” also alters the crime of Computer Tampering in the Third Degree by adding language which makes it illegal to “(alter) in any manner or (destroy) computer material indicating that a person did or did not receive a vaccination against COVID-19. Computer Tampering in the Third Degree is an E Felony which carries up a sentence greater than one year of incarceration. Presumably, this statute is to keep health care workers and others with access to vaccination records from falsifying the data to get a legitimate vaccination card under false pretenses.
It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dramatically alter the legal landscape. New statutes are enacted frequently to adapt to the massive societal upheaval wrought by COVID-19. Criminal laws too have changed to make sure that people remain compliant with public health and safety protocols. We expect to see more such statutes as the pandemic continues.
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