Manhattan Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is loosely defined as a type of crime where the victim has a domestic relationship with the defendant. A domestic relationship refers to family relationships, dating relationships, or household relationships. Examples of domestic relationships include husband/wife, girlfriend/boyfriend, roommates and co-parents. Because such relationships can involve complicated emotions, criminal behavior sometimes occurs. Crimes that are commonly associated with domestic violence include assault, sexual assault, stalking, harassment, menacing, and strangulation. While the victim of domestic violence is often a wife or girlfriend, the victim can also be a husband or a boyfriend. Oftentimes when the police investigate allegations of domestic violence it is difficult to determine who initiated the violence. In fact, in the absence of obvious physical injuries it is challenging to determine which person is the victim. Just because you are charged with a crime related to domestic violence does not mean that you will be convicted. This is why it is important to immediately contact an experienced Manhattan Domestic Violence Lawyer who understands the complicated issues related to domestic violence and who will vigorously defend you against the criminal charges.

Definition of Domestic Violence

Under New York law there is no one crime that is called "domestic violence." In other words, you cannot be arrested and charged with domestic violence. Domestic violence is a broad term for violence that occurs between people who are related or who have a social relationship such as being married, living together, or dating. In order for a crime to be termed domestic violence it does not have to involve people in a romantic relationship or who have a past romantic relationship. It also refers to violence between family members or those sharing the same household. While anyone can become a domestic violence defendant or victim, where a victim suffers a serious physical injury from domestic violence the victim is often female and the perpetrator male.

Domestic violence can involve a number of different crimes such as disorderly conduct, harassment, aggravated harassment, various types of sex crimes, assault, reckless endangerment, and stalking.

Disorderly conduct. Disorderly conduct is a common domestic violence charge. It involves acting violent towards another person in public. Thus, if you have an argument with your wife or girlfriend public, for example, and the argument gets loud or if physical violence ensues, then one or both you will likely face a charge of disorderly conduct. Disorderly conduct is not considered a crime, but a violation. N.Y. Pen. Law § 240.20.

Harassment and aggravated harassment. Harassment and aggravated harassment are also common charges related to domestic violence. Harassing someone involves annoying or violent behavior toward another person such as striking, shoving, kicking, engaging in other physical contact, following, or engaging in other alarming conduct. N.Y. Pen. Law § 240.25 and 240.26. Such harassment becomes aggravated harassment if it is accomplished using a written or electronic means of communication such as a letter or telephone. N.Y. Pen. Law § 240.30. For example, in People v. Bohlman, 913 N.Y.S.2d 497 (2010), the defendant faced several charges, including aggravated harassment in the second degree based on calling, texting and mailing letters to the victim, defendant's ex-girlfriend.

Sexual assault. Under the New York Penal Law there are several different types of sex crimes. The common factor that makes sexual contact a crime is the lack of consent. If you have sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex or any other type of sexual contact with your girlfriend, wife, partner, roommate, or anyone else without that person's consent, you could face one of several sexual assault charges. Even if you are in a romantic relationship with the person such as marriage, cohabitating or dating, if you have sex with that person without his or her consent, then you have committed an act of domestic violence involving sexual assault. Examples of the sex crime charges that you may face include: sexual misconduct, sexual abuse, and rape.

Assault. You have committed assault if you intentionally, recklessly, or with criminal negligence cause physical harm to another person. N.Y. Pen. Law § 120.00. If you hit your spouse, girlfriend, roommate, child, or other family member, for example, then you would have committed an act of domestic violence that included assault.

There are several different offenses related to assault. If when you assault someone you intend to cause serious harm and you in fact do cause serious harm, the charge you will face is assault in the second degree. N.Y. Pen. Law § 120.05. This type of assault often involves the use of a deadly weapon such as a gun or a knife. For example, in People v. Thurnquest, 938 N.Y.S.2d 749 (2012), defendant Chet Thurnquest was arrested on a charge of assault in the second degree as well other domestic violence charges after being accused of repeated striking his wife and pushing her out of a moving vehicle, resulting in serious injuries to his wife.

Assault in the first degree is similar to assault in the second degree except that the assault was with a dangerous weapon and caused the victim a serious injury, the intent of the assault was to permanent disfigure, or the assault was with depraved indifferent to human life. N.Y. Pen. Law § 120.10. In the case of People v. Thurnquest, where the defendant pushed his wife out of a moving car, the defendant was also charged with assault in the first degree. In People v. Khan, 906 N.Y.S.2d 782 (2010), a first degree assault charge was based on the defendant hitting his wife in the torso with a large cleaver causing injuries. In People v. Russell, 824 N.Y.S.2d 684 (2006), the defendant punched victim several times, causing her to lose her right eye.

Reckless endangerment. Reckless endangerment is different from assault in that assault involves causing a victim injury, while reckless endangerment involves engaging in conduct that creates a significant risk of causing another person serious injury. N.Y. Pen. Law § 120.20. To be charged with reckless endangerment in the first degree, the prosecution must establish that not just that your actions posed a substantial risk of serious injury to another person, but that your actions showed a depraved indifference to human life and posed a risk of death to another person. N.Y. Pen. Law § 120.25

Stalking. If you follow another person such as your girlfriend or boyfriend, or if you communicate with that person in a way that makes that person fear for his or her safety, you are a stalker. N.Y. Pen. Law § 120.45. There are 4 stalking offenses: stalking in the fourth degree, third degree, second degree, and first degree. The most serious stalking offense is stalking in the first degree. You will face this charge if while stalking someone you also intentionally or recklessly caused the victim physical injury, or if you also commit a sex crime against the person you stalked. N.Y. Pen. Law § 120.60.

Stalking in the fourth and third degrees are misdemeanors, with penalties of up to one year in jail. Stalking in the second degree is a Class E felony with a possible sentence of up to 4 years in prison, while stalking in the first degree is a Class D felony with a possible sentence of up to 7 years in prison.

Strangulation. Strangulation involves obstructing the breathing or blood circulation of another person. To face a charge of strangulation in the second degree, when causing the obstruction of the breathing or blood circulation of another person you also cause that person to lose consciousness, fall into a stupor, or cause a physical injury. N.Y. Pen. Law § 121.12. For example, in People v. Fairman, 957 N.Y.S.2d 265 (2012), the defendant, who was the father of the victim's children, charged with strangulation in the second degree based on twisting a shirt around the victim's neck. The victim testified that she was unable to breathe and experienced blurry vision. The couple's children were witnesses to the defendant's actions.

A strangulation charge will be raised to the more serious charge of strangulation in the first degree if the victim suffers serious injury. N.Y. Pen. Law § 121.13.

Consequences of a Domestic Violence Crime Conviction

Order of Protection. If you are arrested and charged with a crime where the victim is involved in domestic relationship with you, one of the first things that the prosecutor will do is ask the judge to issue an Order of Protection in favor of the victim. The purpose of the Order of Protection would be to keep the victim safe from harm or further harm. The Order will require you to stay away from the victim or to refrain from any harassing or threatening actions targeted to the victim. For example, the Order may require you to refrain from communicating with the victim via telephone, mail, or electronically, refrain from injuring pets, pay child support, pay expenses related to the victim's hospitalizations that were the result of your abusive actions, move out of the residence, and to surrender any guns you possess. N.Y. FCT. Law § 842; N.Y. FCT. Law § 842-A

Prison. If you are ultimately convicted of a crime related to domestic violence your punishment may range from probation up to life in prison. It depends largely on the charge. One of the least severe domestic violence offenses is disorderly conduct. In fact, disorderly conduct is not classified as a crime, but as a violation. This means that if you are convicted the maximum possible sentence that you will have is 15 days in jail. However, the vast majority of offenses related to domestic violence are either misdemeanors or felonies. In most cases if you are convicted you face the possibility of going to prison for years.

  • Class B misdemeanor: The maximum possible sentence is 3 months days.
  • Class A misdemeanor: The maximum possible sentence is 1 year in jail.
  • Class E felony: The maximum possible sentence is 4 years in prison.
  • Class D felony: The maximum possible sentence is 7 years in prison.
  • Class C felony: The maximum possible sentence is 15 years in prison.
  • Class B felony: The maximum possible sentence is 25 years in prison.

In addition to the classification of the crime, whether or not you go to prison and for how long also will depend on whether or not you have prior criminal convictions, and whether or not there any other aggravating factors involve in the crime.

Probation. If you are convicted of a crime related to domestic violence your sentence may include probation. If so, your probation term will be for 3 years of a misdemeanor conviction and 5 years for a felony conviction. There will be several rules that you must follow while you are on probation. N.Y. Pen. Law § 65.10.

  • You must not commit a crime
  • You cannot leave the State of New York without permission from your probation officer
  • You must consent to warrantless searches
  • You must not associate with people who have criminal records
  • You must not patronize disreputable places
  • You must not possess a firearm
  • You must not use or possess a controlled substance
  • You must refrain from consuming alcohol
  • You must undergo any ordered medical or psychiatric treatment
  • You must complete an alcohol or substance abuse program
  • You must stick to a curfew
  • You must have job or attend school
  • You must support your family
  • You must submit to electronic monitoring
  • You must perform community service
  • You must notify your Probation Officer of a new address
  • You must regularly report to your Probation Officer

If your Probation Officer believes that you have violated any of the terms of your probation, a warrant may be issued for your arrest. You will have to appear before the judge that originally sentenced you. The possible consequences for probation violation include being permitted to stay on probation with additional terms, additional sentencing for new offenses, probation being revoked and you being sent to prison.

Fines, Fees and Restitution. There are several financial consequences to committing a domestic violence related crime. The judge may order you to pay a fine of up to $1,000 for a misdemeanor conviction or up to $5,000 for a felony conviction.

The law also requires that you pay certain fees including a "mandatory surcharge" of $175 to $300 as well as a victim assistance fee of $25. N.Y. Pen. Law § 60.35. If you are convicted of a sex crime you will have to pay fees associated with sex offender registration. If you sentence includes any type of community supervision such as probation you will be ordered to pay supervision fees of $30 per month.

Another financial consequence of an assault in the second degree conviction is that you may be ordered to pay restitution to your victim. Generally, the maximum amount of restitution for a misdemeanor conviction is $10,000 and $15,000 for a felony conviction. However, the court may increase the amount to more than the statutory maximum to cover the amount of the victim's medical expenses. Furthermore, you will also have to pay a fee to the company charged with collecting the restitution from you.

Failure to pay an ordered fine, fee or restitution, may result in serious legal consequences such as the revocation of probation. However, if you let the court know that you do not have the means to pay, the judge may adjust the payment terms, lower the amount you are required to pay, or revoke the part of your sentence that requires you to pay.

Sex Offender Registration. In addition to a possible jail or prison term, probation and fine, if you are convicted of a domestic violence related crime, if the crime is a sex offense you will also be required to register as a sex offender. This means that upon conviction, you will have to register certain information with a designated law enforcement agency. N.Y. Cor. Law § 168. You will have to register for at least 20 years. In some cases, you will be required to remain on the sex offender registry for the rest of your life.

As a registered sex offender several restrictions will be placed on you. For example, you will not be able to move out of New York state without informing the New York Department of Criminal Justice Services. If you do move, you must let the local law enforcement that you have moved to that jurisdiction, and you must follow that jurisdiction's sex offender registration rules. Even if you do not leave New York, you will have to keep the Department of Criminal Justice Services informed of your address. Some sex offenders will have to verify their address to the police every 90 days. You will also have to report to the local police and have your photograph taken every three years. You may have to let the police know the name and address of your employer, and the name of the school you are attending. If you do not follow these rules, you can be arrested and charged with a Class D felony that could result in jail or prison time.

Domestic violence court

When you are involved in a domestic violence crime, your case may be handled by a special court called the Integrated Domestic Violence Court (IDV). To be eligible for IDV court, the parties involved must have a criminal domestic violence case as well as a Family Court case or a matrimonial case. While all cases will be adjudicated separately, a single judge will oversee all cases to ensure that the outcomes are coordinated and consistent.

Furthermore, cases handled in IDV have systems in place to facilitate access to community services such as victim assistance services and to ensure intensive defendant monitoring. For example, if you are on probation the court will designate someone to work closely with you and the IDV to oversee compliance with the terms of your probation.

Being accused of domestic violence may leave you feeling both angry and betrayed. It may be difficult to focus on your criminal case while also dealing with such emotions. However, it is important to keep in mind the serious consequences of being convicted of a domestic violence crime. If you have been charged with any crime related to domestic violence it is important that you are represented by someone with experience. The staff at Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts, including those accused of domestic violence involving stalking, reckless endangerment, rape, assault, sexual assault, strangulation and murder. 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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