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New York Penal Code 215.51: Criminal contempt in the first degree

May 3, 2017 New York Penal Code

In the state of New York, a person can be found guilty of violating New York Criminal Code 215.51: First Degree Criminal Contempt. This legal violation is often charged when a person has violated the terms associated with an Order of Protection that has been issued by a New York court.

Criminal Contempt
It is known as the intentional disobedience and disrespect of a court. The punishments associated with Criminal Contempt are designed to discourage conduct that goes against a court’s rules. This is often used to address negative behaviors in a courtroom. It’s possible for a person to be charged with contempt without it being a criminal charge. This could happen when someone in a courtroom refuses to turn off their cell phone and more. A charge of Criminal Contempt in the first degree is very serious. It is a felony charge that often involves incarceration.

Order of Protection
It is common in cases involving domestic violence for the victim and defendant to be involved in a relationship. Circumstances occur, and the victim seeks an Order of Protection from a New York court. This is a legal document that when granted will order a defendant to stay away from the victim. It will also direct the defendant to not have any type of communication with the victim. Should the defendant violate the terms of the Order of Protection, they could be found guilty of Criminal Contempt in the first degree.

Protected Individual
A person can be found guilty First Degree Criminal Contempt if they cause a protected individual to believe they are in imminent threat of serious physical injury by displaying a deadly weapon and threatening to use it. They can also be found guilty if they follow a protected individual and initiate threatening communication using an electronic medium or in person. The contact with a victim by a defendant could involve actual assault or threats of bodily harm. A person can be guilty First Degree Criminal Contempt if they harass, annoy or are identified as a menace by a protected individual and more.

Punishment
In New York, First Degree Criminal Contempt is very serious. It is a Class E felony. Should a person be a prior felon, they could receive a mandatory minimum sentence of 18 months to three years in prison. Depending on the circumstances, it’s possible for even a first time offender to be sentenced to as long as four years in prison.

Prosecutors Building A Case
Technology has made building a case for First Degree Criminal Contempt much easier for prosecutors. The approval, support or assistance of the complainant is no longer necessary. Since electronic communication is often used when committing this crime, a prosecutor can legally obtain text, email records and more with a subpoena. This will enable them to identify the defendant as the originator of the illegal communication.

Defense
It is possible that a complainant did not want to take out an order of protection, but prosecutors issued one without their consent. This is not a valid legal defense, but it does work to help a defendant’s position in the case. It’s also possible the violation of an Order of Protection was unintentional. This can happen when a victim and defendant are at the same public location by accident. It could be a public event, sports venue and more.

Legal Help
When a person is charged with Criminal Contempt in the first degree, they will need to speak with an attorney about their situation. If this situation is not handled properly, a defendant could spend years in jail. A legal professional will be able to inform a defendant of their legal rights. They will know how to obtain the best possible outcome for an individual’s situation.

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