Criminal Contempt: New York Penal Law Article 215

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

Criminal contempt is a serious offense in New York, and those who are accused of it can face harsh legal consequences. Defined under New York Penal Law Article 215, criminal contempt involves any intentional disobedience or disrespect towards a court order, process, or authority. This can include actions such as refusing to comply with a subpoena, violating a protective order, or disrupting court proceedings.

Being charged with criminal contempt can have severe consequences, including fines, imprisonment, and a criminal record. It is therefore essential to have a thorough understanding of the laws surrounding criminal contempt in New York and the legal defenses available.

In this article, will provide an overview of New York Penal Law Article 215 and explore the various types of criminal contempt charges that can be brought against an individual. We will also discuss the potential legal consequences of a conviction, as well as the defenses that may be available to those who are facing criminal contempt charges. By understanding the laws and defenses related to criminal contempt, individuals can better protect their rights and ensure the best possible outcome for their case.

Criminal Contempt in the First and Second Degrees, as well as Aggravated Criminal Contempt, would serve as examples of its codification if strict liability crimes actually existed in the New York Penal Law—and depending on how you define such a phrase, many lawyers will explain how they do. If a judge in New York issues an Order of Protection, Restraining Order, or Stay Away Order, you are essentially out of luck if you violate its provisions. Simply said, do not be startled if the NYPD or another law enforcement agency arrests you, takes you into custody, and charges you with a Domestic Violence offense even though you may not be guilty of any wrongdoing when your attorney disputes the accusations and evidence.

Definition And Elements Of Criminal Contempt: What The Prosecution Needs To Prove

Despite the fact that there are several subsections, unlike “strict responsibility” claims in the civil realm, criminal contempt in the second degree is a violation of Penal Code 215.50. Regardless of whether the order was issued by an NYC Criminal, Family, Justice, Supreme, or County Court, you must have knowledge of its existence in order to violate Penal Law 215.51, First Degree Criminal Contempt, or Penal Law 215.52, Aggravated Criminal Contempt. To be clear, this offense may be proven beyond a reasonable doubt even if the prosecution can show you violated the conditions of the Restraining Order and your awareness of its existence. This is true even if service may not have been done properly.

Potential Consequences Of A Criminal Contempt Conviction In New York

If you are found guilty of this offense in any way, your chances of receiving a favorable sentence are slim. A First Degree conviction is an “E” felony, whereas a Second Degree conviction is an “A” misdemeanor. These offenses carry punishments that can range from one year in jail to four years in state prison. These offenses are superseded by aggravated criminal contempt, a “D” felony punishable by up to seven years in the “upstate.”

Example And Hypothetical Scenario

These crimes frequently occur in a household setting. It makes little difference whether the original Order of Protection or Restraining Order was issued by a judge in Family Court, Criminal Court, or another court. But, even if your intention was to reconcile with the person who the Order of Protection prohibits your contact with or the two of you have reconciled, it may not matter legally to anyone charged with PL 215.50, PL 215.51, or PL 215.52. At this point, the “strict responsibility” standard takes effect, and you will be detained as an accused offender.

Related Offenses And Collateral Issues

A contempt charge’s underlying behavior can involve everything from the mildest and generally innocent phone call or text exchange to the most serious and terrifying physical assault. The type of underlying behavior will frequently determine the severity of the contempt charge that is filed. In many cases, making a threat verbally, acting in a threatening manner, or engaging in stalking will result in a charge of misdemeanor up to felony offense in the First Degree. Aggravated Criminal Contempt is the most serious Assault accusation, which occurs when the protected party suffers physical harm.

Defenses Against Criminal Contempt Charges: Challenging The Prosecution’s Case

Even though each New York Order of Protection case is distinct, being arrested for any of the different degrees of this offense carries a significantly worse stigma. Anything that “smells,” such as disobeying a court order or engaging in domestic abuse, can ruin your reputation and job. Do not for a second believe that your profession—financial, legal, medical, or any other—makes you immune to this “scarlet letter.” Anyone with even a passing familiarity with New York criminal law will understand, at least in part, that a Restraining Order had to have been in existence at the time of the arrest in order to be charged with Criminal Contempt.

If there was nothing in place for you to breach, you obviously cannot be found guilty of contempt. Additionally, depending on your actions, you can be charged with additional offenses including assault or severe harassment. Simply put, there will be assumptions made, and you must be ready to respond (or not) to inquiries from friends, family, or employers.

Violation Of Protective Orders And Criminal Contempt: Understanding The Connection

The violation of a protection order is one of the most frequent reasons for criminal contempt charges in New York. A protective order, which is frequently given in situations involving domestic violence, harassment, or stalking, forbids someone from carrying out specified actions or getting in touch with certain others.

According to New York Criminal Law Article 215, if someone disobeys a protection order, they could be prosecuted with criminal contempt. Protective order violations can result in harsh punishments like fines, jail time, and a criminal record.

The prosecution must demonstrate that the defendant violated the protection order intentionally and willfully in order to establish a violation. Evidence such as witness testimony, call logs, or text messages can be used to support this.

A criminal contempt allegation for violating a protection order may, however, be met with potential defenses. They may include disputing the legitimacy of the protection order, contending that the defendant was not aware of the conditions of the order, or asserting that the defendant’s actions did not constitute a violation.

Contempt Of Court Proceedings: What To Expect In Court And How To Prepare

Contempt of court proceedings can be a complex and intimidating process for those who are facing criminal contempt charges in New York. Understanding what to expect in court and how to prepare can help to reduce stress and improve the chances of a favorable outcome.

In a criminal contempt case, the proceedings typically begin with an arraignment, where the defendant is formally charged with criminal contempt and enters a plea. After the arraignment, the case may proceed to a hearing or trial, where the prosecution will present evidence and witnesses to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

During the hearing or trial, the defendant and their defense lawyer will have the opportunity to challenge the prosecution’s case and present evidence and witnesses in their defense. It is essential to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can help to build a strong defense strategy and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the proceedings.

In preparation for a contempt of court proceeding, it is also important to familiarize yourself with the court’s rules and procedures, dress appropriately, and arrive on time. Showing respect for the court and following its rules can help to create a favorable impression and improve the chances of a positive outcome.

Differences Between Criminal Contempt And Other Criminal Charges In New York

Criminal contempt charges in New York are different from other criminal charges in several ways. Understanding these differences can help defendants better understand the charges they are facing and prepare an effective defense strategy.

One of the key differences between criminal contempt charges and other criminal charges is the burden of proof. In criminal contempt cases, the prosecution must prove that the defendant acted intentionally and willfully, with knowledge of the court order or process that they were violating. This is a higher burden of proof than is required in some other criminal cases, where the prosecution may only need to prove that the defendant acted recklessly or negligently.

Another difference between criminal contempt charges and other criminal charges is the potential consequences of a conviction. While the penalties for criminal contempt can include fines and imprisonment, these penalties may be less severe than those for other criminal charges, such as assault or robbery. However, a conviction for criminal contempt can still result in a criminal record, which can have long-term consequences for the defendant’s personal and professional life.

Finally, criminal contempt cases often involve unique legal issues related to court orders and the authority of the court. Defendants facing criminal contempt charges must work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has a thorough understanding of New York’s contempt laws and the court system.

Working With A Criminal Defense Lawyer For Criminal Contempt Charges: How They Can Help

Working with a criminal defense lawyer is critical for anyone facing criminal contempt charges in New York. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help defendants understand the charges they are facing, build a strong defense strategy, and navigate the court system.

There are several ways in which a criminal defense lawyer can help defendants facing criminal contempt charges. First, a lawyer can provide a thorough analysis of the evidence against the defendant and identify potential weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. This can help to build a strong defense strategy and improve the chances of a favorable outcome.

Second, a criminal defense lawyer can advise defendants on their legal rights and options, including the possibility of negotiating a plea agreement or taking the case to trial. This can help defendants make informed decisions about how to proceed with their cases.

Third, a criminal defense lawyer can represent defendants in court and protect their rights throughout the legal process. This includes challenging any violations of due process, ensuring that the defendant’s rights to a fair trial are upheld, and advocating for the best possible outcome in the case.

Finally, a criminal defense lawyer can help defendants to mitigate the potential consequences of a criminal contempt conviction. This may include negotiating for reduced penalties or alternative sentencing options, such as probation or community service.

Overall, working with a criminal defense lawyer is essential for anyone facing criminal contempt charges in New York. With the right legal representation, defendants can protect their rights, build a strong defense, and work towards the best possible outcome in their case.

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