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How Do No Contact Orders Work in New York City Criminal Cases?

Understanding No Contact Orders in New York City Criminal Cases

What is a No Contact Order?

A no contact order, sometimes called a protective order or stay away order, is issued by a criminal court judge to protect the safety of victims and witnesses. It orders the defendant to have no contact with certain individuals, often the alleged victim(s). Having “no contact” means the defendant cannot:

  • Call, email, text, send social media messages, send letters, or communicate in any way with protected parties
  • Physically approach or be within a certain distance (e.g. 100 yards) of protected parties
  • Go to the protected parties’ home, school, workplace, or other locations they frequent

Violating a no contact order is a criminal offense that can lead to new misdemeanor or felony charges against the defendant.

When is a No Contact Order Issued?

A no contact order can be issued at various stages of a criminal case:

  • At arraignment – When the defendant is formally charged and appears before a judge for the first time, the judge may issue a temporary order of protection for the alleged victim.
  • As a condition of release – The judge may issue a no contact order when setting terms for the defendant to be released pending trial. This ensures the defendant does not try to harass or threaten witnesses while out on bail.
  • As part of a plea deal – No contact orders are commonly part of plea bargains in cases like domestic violence, sex crimes or stalking. The order may continue for several years as part of the defendant’s probation.
  • As a condition of sentence – Even after serving jail/prison time, a defendant may have a permanent no contact order issued that stays in effect after the sentence is complete.

Domestic violence cases frequently involve issuance of no contact orders since there is often an intimate relationship between the accused and the victim that requires separation to avoid further violence.

How Long Does a No Contact Order Last?

Judges have significant discretion in setting the duration of no contact orders issued in criminal cases. Some last only a few weeks during the initial court proceedings while more permanent no contact orders can remain in effect for years as part of a sentence or probation. In New York, the duration depends on factors like:

  • The offense charged – Misdemeanors may lead to shorter orders while felonies often have longer no contact orders for victim protection. Orders tend to last longer in domestic violence and sex crime cases.
  • Plea negotiations – As mentioned above, no contact orders are commonly negotiated as part of plea deals. The defense and prosecution may agree on the order’s length.
  • Victim input – The judge often takes the victim’s wishes into account in deciding how long the no contact order should last. However, in domestic violence cases, victims may be pressured by defendants and recommend shorter orders than appropriate for safety.
  • Defendant’s compliance – Judges may extend no contact orders if the defendant violates the initial order. Non-compliance demonstrates higher ongoing risk to victims.

While no contact order duration varies substantially between cases, they often last 6 months to 5 years depending on the above factors. Permanent lifetime no contact orders are possible as well for the most serious crimes like rape, domestic assault, stalking, etc. The order only remains in effect as long as the criminal case is pending – if charges are ultimately dismissed, so is the no contact order typically.

Can a No Contact Order Be Modified or Lifted?

Defense attorneys can file motions asking the judge to make exceptions or lift a no contact order under certain circumstances. For example, the victim may want the order dropped entirely. Or the defense may argue the protected area is too large/restrictive and needs reduced. However, it is difficult to get no contact orders removed – public safety is the top priority.Exceptions are most commonly made to allow the defendant to:

  • Have supervised visitation with minor children
  • Attend family court regarding child custody
  • Access shared property to retrieve personal belongings

The judge determines if contact exceptions would pose a risk to the protected parties. Any adjustments made are designed to limit contact as much as realistically possible.

What Happens if You Violate a No Contact Order in NYC?

Anyone with a no contact order against them must fully comply with its terms or face new criminal charges for violating the order, including:

  • Aggravated family offense – Class E felony for violating a family offense order after being convicted of a family offense within 5 years. Punishable by probation up to 4 years or 1 to 4 years imprisonment.
  • Criminal contempt – Class A misdemeanor for violating other types of protection orders. Up to 1 year jail.
  • Stalking – Felony stalking charges are possible if the contact is repeated and causes reasonable fear for the victim’s safety. Punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment.

The penalties imposed depend on the nature of the violation, the defendant’s criminal history, and other case circumstances. But new contact with a protected party always carries the risk of additional jail time and/or a permanent criminal record. Defendants should take any no contact order extremely seriously to avoid compounding their legal troubles.

Getting Help with No Contact Orders from NYC Defense Lawyers

The experienced NYC criminal defense attorneys at John Doe & Associates understand how stressful it can be to deal with a no contact order. We represent clients facing all types of charges where these orders come into play.If you have been arrested and had a no contact order issued against you, we can help by:

  • Filing motions seeking to get exceptions or modifications made for legitimate purposes like visitation
  • Defending against new charges if wrongly accused of violating the order
  • Negotiating plea deals that minimize the duration of any no contact orders
  • Advising on how to comply without unnecessarily restricting your client’s life

Do not wait to speak with one of our attorneys about your situation and options. We are available 24/7 to provide skilled legal guidance so you avoid further legal issues. Call 123-456-7890 or contact our NYC office online to get started.


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I hope this overview on no contact orders in NYC criminal cases helps explain how they work and what happens if you violate one. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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