Domestic abuse involves crimes that occur between members of the same family or household. Those involved may be people who are legally married, formerly married, have a common child, have been in an intimate relationship or are related by affinity or consanguinity.
New York laws classify domestic abuse into four categories: menacing, assault, stalking and strangulation. Assault occurs when the offender causes physical harm to another person using a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon. Menacing occurs when the offender threatens to kill or cause physical harm to someone else. The offender is guilty of stalking when he knowingly and for no valid reason engages in a conduct that is likely to cause fear of harm to the safety and physical health of another person. Stalking also involves situations where the person targeted feels his business or career is in danger. Strangulation occurs when the offender applies pressure to the neck or throat of another person with the intention to prevent air and blood circulation.
Penalties for Domestic Abuse
The severity of a domestic abuse penalty depends on what the charges are. Individuals who are convicted of violent offenses such as first-degree assault can get between five and 25 years in prison or a fine not exceeding $5,000. The first-degree strangulation, which is also a violent felony offense, can attract a prison sentence ranging between three and 15 years or a fine of up to $5,000. Menacing, another violent felony but of a lesser magnitude, can attract up to four years in prison. The offender might also go through a probation program or forced to go for anger management therapies. Stalking also attracts penalties similar to menacing.
There are several defenses you can explore when you are charged with domestic abuse. A domestic abuse case must constitute certain acts. Such acts may include stalking, harassment, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, criminal sexual contact, assault, homicide, menacing and strangulation. If the charges are based on a conduct that does not fit in any of the above, you may have no case to answer.
Another possible defense strategy you could explore is to check if the jurisdictional requirements have been met. A case may lack jurisdiction if the plaintiff and the defendant do not fall under the category of individuals protected by the The New York State Domestic Violence Prevention Act. Individuals protected under this act include those who are married, are formerly married, have an intimate relationship or have a common child.
You can also claim self-defense. In this case, you can say that you used a reasonable amount of force to defend yourself against the physical actions of the plaintiff. The judges might dismiss your case if they believe that your actions were due to self-defense.
If you feel someone might file a domestic abuse complaint against you, you can conduct a discovery prior to trial. Ask the person to provide you with copies of medical reports or records regarding the injuries he claims to have suffered and a list of witnesses he intends to call. You may also need copies of the evidence he plans to rely on during trial. These may include tape recordings, expert reports and photographs.
Get a Lawyer
While it is possible to defend yourself against domestic abuse charges, there a lot of complex legal terms you have to understand and procedures to deal with. This can be very challenging if you don’t have any legal experience. Hire an experienced lawyer instead to help you go through the complex legal procedures associated with domestic abuse crimes. A lawyer will work day in day out to build a strong defense and protect your rights during such difficult times.
Contact our law firm today for a free case evaluation over the phone or via email. You can also schedule an appointment at one our offices in New York.