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NY Penal Law § 215.51: Criminal Contempt in the First Degree

June 28, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

When a judge issues an order, you are obligated to follow it. If you fail to follow an order of the court, you will have committed a crime. Moreover, if you do anything with the intention of disrupting a court proceeding, you will have committed a crime. Under New York Penal Code § 215.51, you can be charged and prosecuted for the crime of criminal contempt in the first degree if you refuse to cooperate with a grand jury or if you violate an Order of Protection. The most common reason that defendants come up against a charge of criminal contempt in the first degree is connected to their decision to violate an Order of Protection that was issued in relation to a domestic violence case. Criminal contempt in the first is a Class E felony.

 

Example

 

In the case of the People v. Lawing, 975 N.Y.S.2d 778 (2013), an Order of Protection was in place prohibiting the defendant, Mr. Jermel Lawing, from going anywhere near his former girlfriend or their child. During the period in which the Order of Protection was in effect, Mr. Lawing physically attacked his former girlfriend on numerous occasions, including on one instance when their child was present. During that incident, Mr. Lawing threw the former girlfriend down and choked her. Lawing was subsequently charged with two counts of criminal contempt in the first degree and also one count of criminal contempt in the second degree.

 

Offenses that are Related

Assault in the first degree: New York Penal Code § 120.10

Strangulation in the first degree: New York Penal Code § 121.13

Stalking in the first degree: New York Penal Code § 120.60

 

Possible Defenses

A plausible defense against a charge of criminal contempt in the first degree is on the basis of demonstrating that a violation of an Order of Protection was unintentional. For example, in a situation where you and the other individual wind up in the same place by accident, you could have a solid defense against a criminal contempt charge, more so if you immediately depart the location once you realize the other person is present.

 

The Sentence

Criminal contempt in the first degree is a Class E felony. The maximum possible sentence you could face for this crime is 4 years in prison. Your sentence may also include a 5 year probation term and you could be ordered to pay a fine of up to $5,000.

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