New York City Criminal Contempt Lawyer
In virtually every criminal case in New York where there is an alleged victim, the Arraignment Judge will issue an Order of Protection for that individual and will explain to the defendant what that order requires that they refrain from doing. Generally, though not always, this will be a “Full” Order of Protection: in addition to the obvious prohibition from assaulting, stalking, or threatening the complainant, this order prohibits the defendant from communicating with the complainant in any way, shape or form; no calls, texts, emails, letters, no attempting to get friends to speak on the defendant’s behalf, etc. A copy of the order is given to the defendant at arraignment, so there can be no claim later that he was not aware of its contents.
When a person is subject to valid Order of Protection and disregards that order and contacts the individual under the protection of the order anyway, regardless of whether it’s a phone call, email, text, or knock on the door of their house, that person can be found guilty of Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree (sometimes even if the complainant initiates the conversation, if the defendant does not discontinue it quickly enough). There is no requirement under the law that the defendant make any sort of threat or commit any act of violence against the person, any contact will constitute the basis of this offense.
There are no exceptions made to this unless they are explicitly written on the order itself. If the Order of Protection is issued in favor of a spouse, then the defendant will have to find another place to stay until the case is resolved and/or the order is amended to allow the person to return home. With New York City’s focus on combating domestic violence, the NYPD are very quick to make arrests in these situations regardless of the circumstances. If there is an order, and the defendant is physically present or communicating in some way with the complainant, there will generally be another arrest. Because the consequences for violating one of these orders can be extremely severe, speak with a New York City criminal contempt lawyer if you are facing these allegations.
Degrees of Criminal Contempt in New York City
Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree, NYPL § 215.50, is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. Criminal Contempt in the First Degree (NYPL § 215.51) is a more serious offense. A person is guilty of Criminal Contempt in the First Degree if they commit Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree and:
- Intentionally put the person who has the order in fear of injury or death by threatening them with a weapon, or
- Engages in a course of conduct which puts them in fear of physical injury, or
- Threatens or assaults them.
Additionally, if a person has been convicted of Criminal Contempt in the First or Second Degree within the previous five years, and commits Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree again, it will be “bumped-up” to the more serious Criminal Contempt in the First Degree charge. Criminal Contempt in the First Degree is a class E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison if convicted.
Do Restraining Orders Ever Expire?
Whenever a judge establishes an Order of Protection in New York City, they will also specify a date on which that Order will expire and no longer be enforceable. However, protected parties can petition the court to renew an Order of Protection prior to its expiration, while parties subject to these orders generally cannot petition to have them shortened.
Furthermore, if someone is the respondent of an Order of Protection, they are the only individual who can be charged with a crime for violating it—even if the protected party ostensibly violates the order themselves. No matter what the protected party says or does to indicate they want an Order of Protection to be revoked, it will remain in effect until it is officially modified by a judge. An experienced attorney could explain the limitations of a specific order and help a respondent avoid charges of criminal contempt.
Defenses Against Contempt of Court Allegations in New York City
If someone who took out a protective order tries to reach out to the respondent, it is crucial to avoid engaging if at all possible. Restraining order respondents could be arrested for maintaining a conversation or even returning a phone message from the protected party. However, if a protected party tries to coerce the respondent into doing something under threat of reporting them, a local attorney could use evidence of this threat to contest a contempt of court charge.
Similarly, the simplest way to fight back against contempt of court allegations is to contest the notion that the defendant violated a court order at all. If no definitive proof exists that a defendant contacted a protected party in any way, legal counsel could help turn that lack of evidence into a comprehensive legal defense.
What Should You Do When the Police Question You?
If someone is questioned about or arrested for a suspected protective order violation, silence is often the best defense available. Individuals should not try to talk their way out of trouble or make a public apology, as anything they say to a police officer can—and likely will—be used against them in court.
Instead, individuals should prioritize retaining a lawyer in New York City to help them with their defense for criminal contempt. Having a qualified legal professional speak on your behalf can be crucial to negotiating favorable outcomes in these kinds of cases.
The Importance of Retaining a New York City Criminal Contempt Attorney
If you have been charged with Criminal Contempt, it is crucial that you are represented by an attorney with a thorough knowledge of the law around Orders of Protection and Domestic Violence charges. Often, these criminal cases are complicated by personal relationships between complainants and defendants which fluctuate between anger and remorse. In addition to an in depth understanding of the law concerning Criminal Contempt charges, the New York City criminal contempt lawyers at our firm have experience in guiding personal relationships in a way that generates a fair outcome for these cases. Call us today for a free case consultation.