Westchester County Domestic Violence Lawyer
Domestic violence accusations in New York are a serious matter. Not only may you be facing the potential consequences for a criminal conviction, but the fact that the allegations involve violence against a household member could affect your personal life as well.
Many people are surprised to learn that their charges involve domestic violence even though the alleged victim is not a traditional member of their family. New York Penal Law carries an expansive definition of household members that provides protection to anybody with a close personal connection to an alleged abuser.
If you are accused of criminally assaulting or harassing a household member, a Westchester County domestic violence lawyer could represent your interests in criminal court. A distinguished criminal attorney could help you argue against the potentially damaging effects of any related protective order.
Domestic Violence in Westchester County
New York Penal Law does not enumerate a specific crime of domestic violence. Instead, a domestic violence crime in Westchester County refers to a criminal act committed against certain people. The “criminal act” in question can be any allegation of criminal activity, ranging from misdemeanors to violent felonies.
Common examples of crimes associated with domestic violence include:
- Forcible touching
What Should the Accused Expect From a Family Violence Charge?
No matter the target of an alleged crime, the person accused of committing it must always answer to the underlying charges. However, if the court labels the charge as domestic violence, the stakes often immediately become higher. This is because the prosecutor in the case can file a motion asking for a protective order against the defendant.
A protective order can remain in place throughout the length of a case and can be permanent upon conviction. Depending on the circumstances, it can require a defendant to limit contact with the alleged victim, cease visitation with their children, and even leave their home. For this reason, it may be vital to seek out a Westchester County domestic violence lawyer who could help fight back against allegations involving domestic violence at every opportunity.
Relationships That May Qualify as Domestically Violent Cases
Under New York law, an alleged crime committed against a household member is an incident of domestic violence. According to New York Family Court Act §812, a household member can be:
- Someone related by blood
- A spouse (current or former)
- Anyone who has a child in common with the alleged perpetrator
- Anyone, regardless of sex, who has ever been in a romantic relationship with the alleged perpetrator
- A roommate
The interesting portion of this definition is the added caveat of roommates, as it can often surprise people who are facing allegations of harassment against people who they live with. However, this is a serious factor to bear to mind, since it can result in someone being forced to move out of their home even if they are the primary leaseholder on property.
Is Self-Defense Viable in a Domestic Violence Case?
Self-defense can be a viable defense to a domestic violence case. However, this defense is only available if the person was in fear of imminent harm. If the use of self-defense was unreasonable or the threat of harm was not imminent, the defense will not be viable at trial. The same is true in cases where a person uses more force than is necessary.
Can the Complaining Witness Drop Charges in a Domestic Violence Case?
Once domestic violence charges have been filed, it is not possible for the complaining witness to drop the charges. At that point in the case, only the prosecutor has the power to dismiss a case. Despite this fact, the refusal of a complaining witness to cooperate with the prosecution could have a dramatic impact on the case. Often, prosecutors will agree to drop these charges when they learn that the alleged victim does not want to testify.
If the complaining witness recants their story, an experienced domestic violence attorney in Westchester County could assist in procuring an affidavit from that individual. These affidavits could go a long way toward pushing the state to dismiss the case.
A Domestic Violence Conviction and Gun Rights
According to federal law, individuals convicted of domestic violence will lose their firearm rights. All felony convictions impact these rights. However, anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge is also prohibited from owning, transporting, or selling a firearm.
New York state law also allows the seizure of firearms prior to a conviction in some domestic violence cases. The state allows judges overseeing domestic violence restraining orders to seize firearms in cases where they believe the reporting witness is in danger. To protect one’s freedom, reputation, and rights, it is necessary to work with a skilled domestic violence attorney in the area.
Talk to a Westchester County Domestic Violence Attorney
People facing domestic violence accusations in Westchester County often face a difficult future. On top of the usual penalties that can accompany a criminal conviction, the mere accusation of a domestic violence incident can result in a temporary protective order.
These orders can force a person out of their home, away from their jobs, and require them to stop visiting their children. Furthermore, with conviction these orders may become permanent.
A Westchester County domestic violence lawyer can fight to prevent this outcome by working to defeat the prosecutor’s case and arguing against the imposition of any protective order that could negatively affect your life. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.