Manhattan Domestic Violence and Harassment

N.Y. Pen. Law § 240.25, 240.30 & 240.36

In New York there is no specific crime that is called "domestic violence." Domestic violence is any unwanted physical contact or threatening behavior between two people who are in an intimate relationship, including married and unmarried couples as well as people who share children. While acts of domestic violence sometimes involve assault where the victim is seriously injured, sexual assault, strangulation, or even murder, domestic violence encompasses other criminal offenses that do not necessarily result in the victim suffering a physical injury. The crime of harassment, for example, sometimes involves simply repeatedly bothering or annoying another person by making unwanted phone calls, sending emails, or mailing letters to the other person with the intent of annoying or harassing that person. However, criminal harassment can also involve physically touching the victim. While harassment is a type of domestic violence that is less serious than many other types, if you are convicted you could end up in jail. Thus, if you have been charged with harassment stemming based on an incident related to domestic disturbance it is vital that you immediately contact an experienced Manhattan Domestic Violence and Harassment Lawyer who will explain to you your legal rights and who will work closely with you to fight the charge.

Types of harassment charges

Compared to other domestic violence related crimes, harassment is not quite as serious. In fact, you may think that your harassing actions do not amount to criminal behavior. However, if you annoy, provoke, threaten, or in some other way cause another person emotional distress you may have committed a crime. There are three possible harassment charges that you could face: harassment in the second degree, harassment in the first degree, and aggravated harassment. Harassment in the second degree is the least serious harassment offense. In fact, is not considered a crime, but a violation. Harassment in the first degree and aggravated harassment in the second degree are both misdemeanors.

Harassment in the second degree. You will face this charge if you intend to harass, annoy, or alarm another person and you:

  • Hit, push, kick, or in any way come into physical contact with that person, or threaten to do so; or
  • Follows that person in a public place; or
  • Engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts that serve no legitimate purpose and that alarm or seriously annoy that person.

It is a violation. N.Y. Pen. Law § 240.36.

While at first glance harassment in the second degree may seem like the same offense as assault, it is not. The most significant difference is that for an assault charge the victim must have suffered a physical injury, while for a harassment charge no physical injury is required.

Harassment in the first degree. You will face this charge if you repeatedly follow someone in a public place or engage in a course of conduct that places another person in fear of physical injury. It is a Class B misdemeanor. N.Y. Pen. Law § 240.25.

Aggravated harassment in the second degree. This part of the New York harassment statute is often referred to as the phone harassment statute. While there are 4 types of conduct that can lead to an aggravated harassment in the second degree charge, the 2 types of conduct that most often lead to being charged with this offense involve telephone communication. You will face this charge if you intend to harass, annoy, or alarm another person and you:

  • Communicate with another person anonymously using a telephone, mail, or any other type of written communication such as email, in a manner that is likely to annoy or alarm that person.
  • Make a telephone call with no legitimate purpose. It does matter if there is an actual conversation or not.

Aggravated harassment in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor. N.Y. Pen. Law § 240.30

Consequences of a harassment conviction

Because harassment does not result in a physical injury to the victim, the punishment for harassment are relatively mild. In fact, because harassment in the second degree is a violation and not a misdemeanor or felony, the only punishment that you will receive is a fine. Harassment in the first degree and aggravated harassment in the second degree are misdemeanors. If you are convicted there is a good possibility that you will not have to spend much if any time in jail. Instead, you may be sentenced to just probation and a fine.

Prison and Fines
  • Harassment in the first degree is a Class B misdemeanor. The maximum possible sentence is 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
  • Aggravated harassment in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor. The maximum possible sentence is 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Probation

Because harassment in the first degree and aggravated harassment are misdemeanors there is a good chance that all or part of your sentence will include probation. The term of probation for a Class B misdemeanor is 1 year and for a Class A misdemeanor is 3 years. If your sentence includes both jail and probation you will serve your probation term concurrently with your jail term. For example, if you are convicted of harassment in the first degree and are sentenced to jail for 30 days as well as probation, while you are in jail you will also be on probation. Once you are released from jail you will have to serve the balance of your probation term which would be 1 year minus 30 days.

While probation is preferable to being incarcerated you should beware that some find probation to be quite challenging because of the rules that you will be required to follow. For the entire time that you are on probation you will be required to follow strict rules that are designed to help prevent you from committing another crime. If you break any of these rules there are severe consequences. The court will design a set of rules specifically for you. Typical rules include:

  • You must not commit a crime-- not even a misdemeanor
  • You must not hang out with other people who have criminal records
  • You must not patronize places known for illegal activity
  • You must not use or possess illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia
  • You must consent to warrantless searches without probable cause
  • You must submit to home visits by your Probation Officer
  • You must regularly report to your Probation Officer
  • You cannot leave the State of New York without permission.
  • You must let your Probation Office know if you move. You cannot move out of state without permission. Your Probation Officer will have to approve such a move and will have to make arrangements with your new jurisdiction to take over your probation supervision.
  • You must not own, possess or purchase a gun
  • You must refrain from the excessive use of alcohol. It is also possible that drinking any alcohol will be prohibited.
  • You must complete any ordered substance abuse treatment or medical treatment
  • You must stick to a curfew
  • You must have job or be enrolled in school. If you change jobs or schools, you must let your Probation Officer know.

In the case of People v. Brandel, 924 N.Y.S.2d 311 (2011), the defendant was sentenced to probation. However, the court found out that Brandel violated the terms of his probation by possessing a pellet gun. As a result the judge revoked Brandel's probation and resentenced him to a 30-day jail term.

Long-Term Consequences

While harassment in the first degree and aggravated harassment in the second degree are both misdemeanors, they are still crimes. This means that if you are convicted you will have a criminal record. Unfortunately, having a criminal record may negatively impact some aspects of your life for a long time after you complete your jail term, complete your probation, or pay your fine. For example, you may experience some difficulties finding a job as many employers will resist hiring someone with any type of criminal record even if the offense was just a misdemeanor.

Furthermore, if the harassment charges are related to a domestic relationship, such a conviction may impact your family. For example, if you share children with the victim of your harassment, your custody arrangement may be curtailed or restricted.

While the crime of harassment is only a misdemeanor, it is still a crime. If convicted you may be sent to jail and you will have criminal record. The staff at Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been charged with harassment, domestic violence, as well as other criminal offenses such as menacing, assault, reckless endangerment, strangulation, stalking, and child endangerment. Contact us at 1.800.NY.NY.LAW (1.800.696.9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve those accused of domestic violence in the following locations:

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