Criminal Contempt In The First Degree: New York Penal Law 215.51

by ECL Writer
What Happens If I Am Charged With Criminal Contempt of Court In New York State?

Criminal contempt is a serious offense that can result in severe consequences. In the state of New York, Penal Law 215.51 defines criminal contempt in the first degree, which is a particularly severe form of contempt that can lead to imprisonment and fines. This offense involves intentionally and unlawfully disobeying a court order, and it is typically considered a direct attack on the authority and integrity of the court. Those who are found guilty of first-degree criminal contempt can face a range of penalties, including significant fines and lengthy prison sentences. This article will explore the details of New York Penal Law 215.51 and provide an overview of the consequences that come with a conviction for criminal contempt in the first degree.

While New York Penal Law 215.50(3) is not the only component of Second Degree Criminal Contempt, it is most likely the “brand” of Criminal Contempt you will experience if you disobey a restraining order. A charge under Penal Code 215.50(3), often known as an Order of Protection by New York criminal attorneys, frequently involves crimes involving domestic violence but may also be connected to charges unrelated to this situation. No matter what, even if you have a strong and convincing defense, do not minimize the seriousness of the accusations, whether you are arrested and dragged out of your apartment by the NYPD in Brooklyn or Manhattan or you get a call from a detective in one of the many Westchester or Rockland municipalities.

Definition And Elements Of Criminal Contempt In The First Degree: New York Penal Law 215.51

The law appears to be rather straightforward. That is, knowingly disobeying a court’s order is a violation of PL 215.50(3). Even if there is a legislated exception referring to cases involving labor disputes, these situations are rare in the criminal context and have little to no bearing on stay-away orders given in the context of family or even strangers. The repercussions could be rather severe if you disobey the court’s order, or if you break the judge’s set rules.

Penalties For Criminal Contempt In The First-Degree Conviction

A class “A” misdemeanor, second degree criminal contempt carries a maximum one-year jail sentence, two to three years of probation, a conditional release, community service, fines, and/or additional charges. A conviction is irrevocable even though it is not a felony. Your record won’t ever be afterwards cleared.

It’s important to note that a conviction for Criminal Contempt in the First Degree can have serious consequences beyond the criminal penalties. For example, a criminal record can make it difficult for a person to find employment, obtain housing, or pursue other opportunities. Additionally, a person convicted of a felony may lose certain civil rights, such as the right to vote or own a firearm.

Related Offenses And Collateral Issues

A typical Order of Protection forbids anyone from acting in any way that would harm the protected party. This includes actions that aren’t necessarily unlawful, including phone calls and random conversations. A charge of First Degree Contempt will normally be filed if the underlying conduct qualifies as criminal in nature. Nonetheless, additional criminal charges, such as assault, harassment, aggravated harassment, stalking, or other offenses, may be filed alongside a contempt in the second degree charge, whether as a result of prosecutorial discretion, police discretion, or some other circumstance.

It is crucial to understand that the weight and potential legal violation are the same regardless of whether court issued the underlying Restraining Order—whether in a Criminal Court or a Family Court.

Examples Of Cases Involving Criminal Contempt In The First Degree

If you are charged with Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree and the person the Order of Protection protects from you is a relative, a partner, or someone else who is considered “family,” not only will prosecutors look into the case more closely, but the court system will direct your case to particular courts, reducing the likelihood that it will simply get lost in the shuffle. This accusation and situation are most frequently seen when one person is the subject of a protective order against another, and the restricted party merely phones or contacts the protected party even though they are aware that they are not permitted to do so. The District Attorney may also file other criminal charges based on what was said, the nature of the calls, or the quantity.

What breaches a restraining order and what behavior will result in a Second Degree offense are not subject to a general definition. What you can and cannot do in regard to the protected party will be governed by the language in the Order of Protection against you. As a result, it is imperative that you speak with your criminal attorney before you communicate in any way with the designated party. Can you contact to discuss childcare concerns or to express regret for previous offenses? Maybe, but don’t take action first and inquire later. Even contact made on your behalf by a third party will frequently be illegal.

Defenses Against Criminal Contempt In The First Degree Charges

Before anything else, be careful not to misinterpret what or who is prohibited or safeguarded by an Order of Protection. With the exception of a specific court order or decision, the listed complainant or victim is free to contact you. He or she is able to call, text, email, and more. Their mere communication with you does not breach the order or, for that matter, invalidate the same, provided they are not committing a separate felony like Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree. Yet, due to the “strict liability” aspect of PL 215.50(3), you are subject to arrest if you engage them, get in touch with them again, etc.

Although the protected party might insist they wouldn’t hand you over to the authorities, as criminal defense attorneys and former assistant district attorneys, we have seen innumerable instances where the protected party followed through on their promise days or even weeks later.

Although it is not a legally recognized defense, your criminal attorney will probably want to bring this up with the prosecution if the protected person is using the Order of Protection to pressure you into doing something or to threaten you with a violation if you do not. Perhaps the accuser threatened you in a subtle way via a voicemail, text, or email that was sent to you. Perhaps there is evidence from a third party or a tape you took of the illegal demands. The Stay Away Order may have been broken, but prosecutors have the option of filing criminal charges. Sadly, the police frequently lack this discretion and must make the first arrest.

Understanding The Criminal Justice System’s Response To Criminal Contempt In The First Degree Charges

Criminal contempt in the first degree is a serious charge that is typically brought against individuals who have willfully and intentionally disobeyed a court order or acted in a manner that obstructs the administration of justice. The criminal justice system’s response to criminal contempt in the first degree charges typically involves a number of different steps, which I will outline below.

  • Arrest and Initial Appearance: When a person is charged with criminal contempt in the first degree, they will typically be arrested and brought before a judge for an initial appearance. During this appearance, the judge will inform the accused of the charges against them, and will typically set bail.
  • Pretrial Proceedings: After the initial appearance, the case will proceed through the pretrial phase. During this time, the prosecution and defense will engage in discovery, which involves the exchange of evidence and information relevant to the case. The defense may also file various pretrial motions, such as a motion to dismiss the charges or a motion to suppress evidence.
  • Trial: If the case goes to trial, the prosecution will present evidence to try to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed criminal contempt in the first degree. The defense will have the opportunity to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses.
  • Sentencing: If the accused is found guilty of criminal contempt in the first degree, the judge will typically schedule a sentencing hearing. At this hearing, the judge will consider various factors, such as the severity of the offense, the accused’s criminal history, and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances. Based on these factors, the judge will determine an appropriate sentence, which may include fines, probation, or even imprisonment.

Hiring A New York Lawyer For Criminal Contempt In The First Degree Case

If you’re facing criminal contempt in the first degree charges in New York, it’s crucial to hire a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you. The penalties for a first-degree criminal contempt conviction in New York can be severe, including imprisonment, fines, and a criminal record.

A competent New York lawyer specializing in criminal defense can provide you with essential legal advice, develop a strong defense strategy, and represent you in court. They will also guide you through the complex legal system and help you navigate the nuances of New York’s criminal contempt laws.

When choosing a New York criminal defense lawyer for your first-degree criminal contempt case, you should consider their experience, track record, and reputation in the legal community. Look for a lawyer who has handled similar cases in the past and has a deep understanding of the New York criminal justice system.

Additionally, you should look for a lawyer who is responsive, communicative, and has a strong commitment to their clients. A good criminal defense lawyer will take the time to listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and keep you informed about the progress of your case.

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