Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree: New York Penal Law 215.50(3)

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

Criminal contempt in the second degree is a serious offense in New York that carries severe consequences. It is defined under New York Penal Law 215.50(3) as “intentional disobedience or resistance to the lawful process or other mandates of a court.” This can include refusing to comply with a court order, disrupting court proceedings, or interfering with the administration of justice.

Being charged with criminal contempt in the second degree can have significant impacts on your personal and professional life, including fines, community service, and even imprisonment. It is essential to understand the legal consequences of this offense and the defenses available to you.

In this article, will delve deeper into the specifics of criminal contempt in the second degree, including the legal definition, penalties, and possible defenses. We will also discuss the role of a criminal defense lawyer in helping you navigate the complexities of New York’s legal system and mount a strong defense. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of criminal contempt in the second degree and the importance of seeking legal representation in these cases.

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 in New York. A charge under NY PL 215.50(3), which is more frequently referred to as orders of protection by criminal defense attorneys in New York than restraining orders, is frequently connected to domestic violence cases but is not exclusively restricted to them.

If you are charged with Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree and the person who is protected from you by the order of protection is a relative, partner, or someone else who is considered “family,” not only will prosecutors scrutinize your 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.

The Second Degree of Criminal Contempt Law appears to be very straightforward. That is, knowingly disobeying a court’s order is a violation of NY PL 215.50(3). Although there is a statutory exception referring to cases involving labor conflicts, these situations are rare in the criminal context and have little to no bearing on domestic offenses. You might spend up to a year in jail if you disregard the court’s directive and break the order of protection or restraining order.

Definition And Elements Of Criminal Contempt In The Second Degree

Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree is a criminal offense that occurs when an individual violates a court order, mandate, or process. The offense falls under the broader category of contempt of court, which involves any action that obstructs the administration of justice or undermines the authority and dignity of the court.

The elements of Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree under New York Penal Law 215.50(3) include:

  • The accused was aware of the court order or mandate that was violated.
  • The court order or mandate was lawful and sufficiently clear and specific to be understood by the accused.
  • The accused intentionally violated the court order or mandate, or acted in a way that prevented or interfered with the court’s ability to perform its duties.
  • The accused’s conduct caused actual harm or risk of harm to the administration of justice or the authority and dignity of the court.

If all these elements are met, the accused can be charged and convicted of Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree under New York Penal Law 215.50(3). It’s important to note that the penalties for this offense can be severe, and may include fines, probation, and even imprisonment.

What Constitutes A Violation Of An Order Of Protection

There is no general response to what violates a restraining order and what conduct will result in a charge of Second Degree Criminal Contempt. The language contained in the order of protection against you will dictate what you can and cannot do in relation to the protected party. Because of this, it is critically important that before you have any contact whatsoever with the named party in an order of protection you consult with your criminal attorney. Can you call to discuss childcare issues or apologize for past transgressions? Do not act first and ask questions later. It is routine that even contact from a third party on your behalf will violate an order. The last thing you want to do is inadvertently violate a restraining order and find yourself being held in custody with a significant amount of bail.

Defenses For Violating An Order Of Protection

As a preliminary matter, do not misunderstand what or who is limited or protected by an order of protection. The complainant or victim who is named on that restraining order has every right (barring a separate order or ruling from a court) to contact you. He or she can call you, text you, email you, etc. Assuming they are not perpetrating a separate crime such as Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, their mere contact with you does not violate the order or, for that matter, invalidate the order. If, however, you engage them, contact them back, etc., because of the “strict liability” nature of NY PL 215.50(3), you can violate the order. While the protected party may claim they would never turn you in to the police, as Assistant District Attorneys and prosecutors we have witnessed countless occasions where the protected party days or weeks later did just that. Again, if you make contact in violation of the restraining order you will face up to a year in jail.

While it is not a statutorily identified defense, if the protected party is using the order of protection to coerce you to do something or threaten its violation if you do not do something, then your criminal lawyer will likely want to bring this to the attention of prosecutors. Maybe the protected party left you a voice message, text, or email containing the threat even if it is subtle. Maybe there is third-party corroboration or a recording that you made of the improper demands. Even though you may have violated the order of protection, prosecutors do have discretion in pursuing criminal charges. Unfortunately, the police usually do not share this discretion and must make the initial arrest.

Beyond the circumstances of its use or abuse, orders of protection and violations of these mandates can be challenged similarly to any other case. Simply, what proof exists of that violation? Is it merely the complainant’s word against yours? Can prosecutors corroborate the violation with texts or emails? If so, can prosecutors continue a case even if the complainant wants to drop the charges (the simple answer is “yes” but obviously depends on the evidence)? Alternatively, can you provide an alibi or your own corroboration?

Called By The Police For Questioning Or Places Under Arrest: How To Respond

There is no answer to how you should respond to questing that will cover every situation. Further, this webpage can serve as advice in terms of how you should conduct yourself. Obviously, should you get a call from any detective who merely claims he or she wishes to speak with you, you should consider immediately calling a New York criminal lawyer or Criminal Contempt attorney.

Remember, before you say anything to any law enforcement official, admit to anything or apologize for any conduct…what you say can and will be used against you whether in a criminal proceeding or for other venues. Do not sink your own ship. Do not think you are smarter than the police and you can talk yourself out of your predicament. If you decide to apologize, write out or give an oral statement, or try to get cute and pull the wool over their eyes, what you say can be the piece of evidence the police need for probable cause to arrest you or an Assistant District Attorney the proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you. Exercise your judgment and call your criminal lawyer before you compound the dire situation you find yourself facing.

If you, a family member or a friend is charged with violating an order of protection pursuant to New York Penal Law 215.50(3), be prepared for a battle. Unfortunately, your freedom, record, and career are all at stake.

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