Domestic violence allegations are taken very seriously in New York. There are many forms of domestic violence involving not just physical acts or threats of violence committed against an intimate partner, family member, or loved one, but also a range of emotional, psychological, verbal, and other abuses within the household. Criminal defense lawyer Michael A. Arbeit, P.C. has handled all types of difficult domestic violence cases throughout Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk Counties, and in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx.
Types of Domestic Violence
At its core, domestic violence is a set of behaviors associated with a coercive pattern of power and control. In addition to acts and threats of physical violence, some of the hallmarks of these behaviors include:
- Unwanted contact
- Manipulation, intimidation, or extreme possessiveness
- Making unreasonable demands or threats
- Isolating the victim or ruining the victim’s other relationships
- Stifling the victim’s independence
- Financial control or exploitation
- Sexual abuse
- Imposing physical restraints
There is no specific criminal charge for “domestic violence” in New York. One of the most common offenses linked to domestic violence incidents is “assault”, defined as an act in which one person knowingly attempts to cause bodily harm to another person. Other crimes associated with domestic violence can include:
- Aggravated harassment
- Criminal contempt and aggravated criminal contempt
- Obstruction of breathing or blood circulation
- Endangering the welfare of a child
Penalties for Domestic Violence Offenses
When an assault is committed on a family member or intimate partner, the assailant may be charged with assault in the first, second, or third degree, depending on the nature and severity of the assault. Under New York’s mandatory arrest law, if the police are called for a possible domestic violence incident and find probable cause that a felony assault has occurred, the police are required to make an arrest even if the alleged victim does not want an arrest. As a result, an innocent person can be arrested and charged on the basis of a false accusation.
Domestic violence offenses carry a wide range of penalties in New York. To illustrate, a person found guilty of assault in the first degree, a violent felony, could be sentenced to five to 25 years in prison and/or be fined up to $5,000. Menacing in the second degree, which involves a threat with a firearm or other deadly weapon, is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. A conviction can also lead to collateral consequences such as loss of professional licenses and certifications.
Under New York’s Criminal Procedural Law, a familial or intimate relationship between the defendant and the complainant is relevant to the conditions that may be imposed upon the defendant’s release on bail or upon conviction. Orders of protection are available to victims and witnesses, regardless of their relationship or the nature of the offense, as well as other members of the defendant’s family, thereby restricting the defendant’s access not only to the victim but also to children and the home. In addition to criminal penalties, the presence of domestic violence can form a basis for dissolving a marriage on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment. It is also a factor considered by the Family Courts when making custody and visitation decisions.
Defending against Domestic Violence Charges
Proof of continuing domestic violence against the defendant by the alleged victim of an assault may support a defense of justification, self-defense, or extreme emotional disturbance. These defenses are often supported by expert psychological or psychiatric evidence. A claim of justification based upon a defendant’s “battered-person syndrome” may be used as a mitigating factor for the commission of the crime and grounds for leniency at sentencing.
In some cases, a defendant accused of a domestic violence crime in New York may have the charges dismissed in the interests of justice based on the existence of compelling factors showing that a conviction or prosecution of the defendant would be an injustice. The court has the discretion to dismiss the charges based on:
- The seriousness of the offense
- The harm caused by the offense
- The evidence of guilt
- The history, character, and condition of the defendant
- Any exceptionally serious misconduct of law enforcement
- The impact of a dismissal on the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system
- The impact of a dismissal on the safety or welfare of the community
- The victim’s position on the motion to dismiss
- Any other relevant fact indicating that a conviction would serve no useful purpose.
Choose Michael A. Arbeit, P.C.
A domestic violence conviction can result in stiff penalties including both jail time and fines. It can also have devastating and long-lasting consequences on your personal and professional life. If you have been accused of domestic violence, you need to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight for you. Contact Michael A. Arbeit, P.C., Long Island’s leading criminal defense law firm, today to discuss your case.