New York Criminal Contempt and the Protected Person’s Residence: Trying to Build a Case without a Victim

Orders or Protection are perhaps the most frequent basis for Criminal Contempt charges in New York. Such charges and criminal cases have become so routine, that the actual complaints charging a defendant with such an offense can become so pro forma as to become almost meaningless. However, the accusations in even the simplest, most routine criminal complaint are of critical importance to a New York Criminal Contempt arrest and case. One way in which a person can violate the terms of a typical Order of Protection is by going to the protected person’s home. This can even include standing outside the front door of the protected person’s apartment building. Irrespective of the context, it is possible that the protected person is not willing to cooperate with law enforcement, and did not want the defendant arrested in the first place. In that scenario, the prosecution will often attempt to rely on other witnesses to the crime, such as family, friends, bystanders or police officers. However, this can often create gaps and shortcomings in information and support for the allegations, which can manifest themselves in the criminal complaints themselves. This was precisely the situation presented to the trial Court in People v. Friedman, 48 Misc.3d 817 (Queens Co. Crim Ct. 2015).

In Friedman, the person making the factual allegations was not the protected person, and the allegation was that this witness observed the defendant standing outside the protected person’s residence. Similar to the Pandiello case, which you can read about here (LINK TO OTHER CONTEMPT BLOG POST BELOW), the complaint failed to provide any reasons or support for the conclusion that this particular location was the protected person’s residence. The allegations in a complaint cannot be conclusory. In order the be legally sufficient, the allegations must make reference to what the witness deponent observed, heard, and other basis for their knowledge.

It is also worth noting that in Friedman, the complaint referenced the underlying Order of Protection without attaching a certified copy or providing any other hearsay exception that would allow for that aspect of the complaint to be considered either. In addition to the requirement that the allegations not be conclusory, as discussed above, a complaint cannot contain any hearsay if the case is to move forward toward a trial. While this requirement is overlooked much less often than the requirement of non-conclusory allegations, it is important to keep in mind nonetheless, especially in the context of routine and boiler-plate complaints such as those found in relation to Criminal Contempt charges.

Crotty Saland PC is a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors. The New York criminal lawyers at Crotty Saland PC represent clients in New York Domestic Violence arrests and Criminal Contempt cases throughout the New York City and Hudson Valley region.