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New York Domestic Violence Laws

Overview of New York Domestic Violence Laws

In order to facilitate domestic violence victims' access to protective and prosecutorial resources, New York family courts and criminal courts have concurrent jurisdiction over "family offenses" such as assault, sexual misconduct or abuse, stalking, menacing, and strangulation. As a result, victims of domestic violence may bring civil charges in family court, criminal charges in criminal court, or simultaneous actions in both courts.

Victims may also apply for an order of protection from either court, including an order that the defendant stay away from the victim and the children involved. Although New York criminal law does not differentiate between domestic-violence related crimes and other offenses, it nonetheless criminalizes several violent acts which may occur between spouses, former spouses, parent and child, or members of the same household in an intimate relationship.

An aggressor may be convicted of assault depending on the physical harm he or she intends to inflict as well as the actual harm suffered by the victim. One form of first-degree assault occurs when the aggressor intends to cause serious physical injury to another person and does injure the intended victim or a third person using a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. Third-degree assault occurs when the aggressor (a) intends to cause physical injury to another person and injures either the intended victim or a third person; (b) recklessly causes injury to another person; or (c) with criminal negligence, causes physical injury to another person using a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.

New York also criminalizes stalking, which occurs when an aggressor intentionally and for no legitimate purpose engages in a course of conduct directed at the victim while knowing that his or her conduct is likely to cause or does cause material harm to the victim's mental or emotional health; a reasonable fear of material harm to the victim's physical health, safety or property or that of the victim's immediately family; or a reasonable fear that the victim's employment, business or career is threatened.

Menacing is another prohibited crime. An aggressor engages in menacing when he or she intentionally places - or attempts to place - another person in reasonable fear of physical injury or death by displaying a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument; or repeatedly follows the victim, engages in a course of conduct, or commits acts over a period of time that are intended to place the victim in reasonable fear of physical injury or death.

The crimes of strangulation - described as the criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation resulting in the victim's physical or serious physical injury - and the lesser offense of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation are also punishable by law.

Defenses

  • Justification (for assault where parent uses non-deadly physical force on children under 21 years old for discipline purposes)
  • Self-defense (for assault where aggressor effectively communicates his or her withdrawal but victim continues the incident through the use or threatened imminent use of unlawful physical force)
  • Medical or dental purpose (for strangulation and related offenses)
  • Mental disease or defect

Penalties and Sentences

Family offenses such as those described above face a wide range of penalties under New York law. For instance, conviction of a violent felony offense such as first-degree assault will impose a sentence of 5 to 25 years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000. First-degree strangulation - another violent felony offense - will result in imprisonment of 3.5 to 15 years or a similar fine of up to $5,000.

Offenses including third-degree assault, second-degree menacing, and criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation are classified as class A misdemeanors, and thereby punishable by imprisonment of less than one year or a fine of up to $1,000.

New York Domestic Violence Statutes

Procedures for Family Offense Proceedings
Family Court Act Section 812

Assault Offenses
Penal Code Sections 120.00-120.12

Menacing Offenses
Penal Code Sections 120.13-120.15

Stalking Offenses
Penal Code Sections 120.45-120.60

Strangulation and Related Offenses
Penal Code Sections 121.11-121.14

Note: State laws are constantly changing - please contact a New York domestic violence attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.  

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