Domestic violence endangers far too many families in and near the Rochester area. If you are a victim of domestic violence, a Rochester domestic violence attorney can provide the insights and guidance you need and take the steps that will protect you and your children in the future.
If domestic abuse is a part of your life right now, please continue reading. You’re about to find out how to obtain legal protection for yourself and for your children, how to take full advantage of your legal rights, and how domestic abuse cases are handled in the State of New York.
How Does New York Define Domestic Violence?
The term “domestic violence” may refer to a number of different abusive or violent acts. The U.S. Department of Justice defines domestic violence as any of these forms of abuse:
- physical violence
- psychological abuse
- emotional abuse
- sexual abuse or violence
- financial abuse
What Are an Abuse Victim’s Legal Options?
If you’re a domestic violence victim in the State of New York, you may bring criminal charges against your abuser in a criminal court, file a civil action against the abuser in family court, or take simultaneous action through both state court systems.
If a criminal domestic violence charge can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the offender may face a considerable jail or prison sentence.
However, criminal charges are not necessarily the best way to stop the abuse, because in most cases, the abuser will bail out of jail quickly, and proving a crime “beyond a reasonable doubt” can be a difficult challenge.
When Should You Seek an Order of Protection?
Many New York attorneys would instead suggest that abuse victims seek an order of protection from a family court. Some people are victims of domestic violence for years. Don’t be one of those victims. You and your children deserve a solution.
If you are a domestic violence or abuse victim, the time to seek legal help is now. The right New York domestic violence lawyer will help you obtain legal protection immediately and then guide you through the full judicial process.
A Rochester domestic violence lawyer can help you obtain a temporary order of protection from a New York judge to protect you and your children from domestic violence and abuse if the person who has been abusing you is:
- your former or current spouse
- your relative by blood or marriage
- your child’s other parent
- a person you’ve dated or with whom you had an intimate relationship.
What Do Orders of Protection Accomplish?
If you believe that you and your children are not safe, your New York family law attorney can ask a judge for a temporary protection order on your behalf. A family court order of protection can:
- prevent an abuser from being in your and/or your children’s presence
- order an abuser out of your home – and keep that person out
- compel your child’s other parent to pay court-ordered child support
- prevent an abuser from possessing, owning, purchasing, or acquiring a firearm
The courts in New York issue protection orders in three ways:
- A Family Court protection order may be issued as part of a civil family offense proceeding.
- A criminal court protection order may be issued as a condition of a criminal defendant’s bail or release on a criminal charge.
- A Supreme Court order of protection may be issued during a divorce proceeding.
What If an Abuser Violates an Order of Protection?
Of course, an order of protection is literally a piece of paper. It might not keep an abuser from stalking or even injuring someone, but a temporary order of protection does allow a domestic abuse victim to have the abuser taken into police custody if the order of protection is violated.
Anyone who has violated a temporary order of protection may be charged with misdemeanor or felony criminal contempt of court, hinging on the details of the violation. If an abuser is convicted for criminal contempt of court, the violation of a protection order entails these penalties:
- If the charge is second-degree criminal contempt of court, it’s a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable upon conviction with up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
- If the charge is first-degree criminal contempt of court, it’s a Class E felony, which is punishable upon conviction with up to four years (and a mandatory one year) in prison.
- If the charge is first-degree aggravated criminal contempt of court, it’s a Class D felony, which is punishable upon conviction with up to seven years (and a mandatory one year) in prison.
Can You Obtain a Permanent Order of Protection?
Most protection orders issued by New York family courts are for two years. You may obtain a five-year “final” order of protection if you can prove there are aggravating circumstances or if the court finds there was a violation of the temporary order. Aggravating circumstances include:
- The abuser used a weapon or a dangerous instrument against you.
- The abuser has a history of violating protection orders.
- The abuser continues behavior that poses an ongoing danger to you and your children.
What Can Be Included in a Final Order of Protection?
If a final order of protection is issued, it may stay in effect for as long as five years, and it may include:
- An order to pay restitution: If the abuser damaged or destroyed your property, the court may order the abuser to pay restitution up to $10,000. The burden will be on you and your attorney to prove the value of the damaged or destroyed property.
- An order to pay medical expenses: The court may order the abuser to pay for any medical costs and related expenses linked to the abuse.
- An order for treatment or counseling: The court may order the abuser to take part in an anger management program or participate in drug or alcohol rehabilitation and counseling.
If you are a domestic abuse victim, discuss your circumstances with a Rochester domestic violence attorney who will explain your rights and recommend the best way to proceed.
In some cases, a Family Court order of protection will be the appropriate remedy. In other cases, your attorney may recommend involving the police and pursuing criminal charges. The right attorney will have the background and legal knowledge to help you make the right choices.