Criminal Contempt is a crime that generally brings both personal attention and significant scrutiny from Assistant District Attorneys and judges beyond what one would normally expect in a criminal prosecution. Its not that other criminal cases aren’t thoroughly reviewed, but the personal and often domestic component to a Criminal Contempt case forces prosecutors to dig deeper into allegations, protect an alleged victim and even cover themselves should something happen at a later date and it is deemed that at the time of the initial incident, the Assistant District Attorney did not properly handle the case. For all of these reasons and the often very serious nature of a Criminal Contempt case, the crimes in New York of Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree (New York Penal Law 215.50), Criminal Contempt in the First Degree (New York Penal Law 215.51) and Aggravated Criminal Contempt (New York Penal Law 215.52) are all “top shelf” crimes in the eyes of law enforcement and know less serious to defend in the hands of even the most experienced New York criminal lawyer.
Because of the varying degrees and crimes of Criminal Contempt, understanding your exposure should commit a Criminal Contempt crime is important. Second Degree Contempt, NY PL 215.50, is an “A” misdemeanor with a punishment that can be as great as one year in a local (county) jail. First Degree Contempt, NY PL 215.51, is an “E” felony punishable by as much as four years in prison. Aggravated Criminal Contempt, NY PL 215.52, is a “D” felony carrying a sentence of as long as seven years behind bars.
Instead of going into detail as to each subsection and legal definition contained in New York’s Criminal Contempt statutes, Saland Law PC created a New York Criminal Contempt information page that contains relevant materials and provides a solid understanding of the statutes, what constitutes a violation of a restraining order or an order of protection and even some general type defenses. Far from a treatise on violations of New York restraining orders, it is a good place to start your research. Further, a search of this blog contains (and will contain more over time), additional insight.
If nothing else, keep in mind a few practical pieces of information if you are considering ignoring an order of protection, you are investigated for violating a restraining order or you have already been arrested for some alleged criminal conduct. First, while prosecutors must always prove their cases beyond a reasonable doubt, there is a relatively strict liability standard. If the order says “no contact whatsoever” and you make contact with the protected party, you are likely in violation. Second, barring a “subject to” clause in a full order of protection, there is nothing impressible about the protected party contacting you. That would not constitute a crime unless there is some other criminal conduct. Third, if you are arrested (again, if this is a domestic violence case your arrest is required even if the alleged victim changes his or her mind or protests), judges routinely set bail and Assistant District Attorneys do not make initial offers.
Do yourself a favor and understand the crimes of Criminal Contempt not after you get arrested, but speak with your criminal attorney at the time you initially receive your restraining order. Understand if it is a “full” or “limited” order. If you have concerns about your children or other matters that must be addressed in a family or matrimonial forum, ask your attorney to have the criminal court judge endorse the order to state that it is “subject to” another court’s order. Not only will all of this potentially save you time and money down the road, but it may mean the difference between spending time locked up for a crime you may have sincerely not wanted to or thought you had committed.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense practice devoted to representing clients accused of criminal conduct in New York City, Westchester County and other neighboring jurisdictions. Both founding criminal lawyers served not just a Assistant District Attorneys in Manhattan, but as members of the Domestic Violence Unit during their tenure.