Any experienced New York City criminal contempt lawyer can tell you that the New York Criminal Contempt statute is very specific in what it prohibits. It is basically a violation of a court proceeding or order. It is its own crime. In other words, if a person is accused of Criminal Contempt, he can be arrested by the police and prosecuted by the District Attorney's Office. And if convicted, he can go to state prison just for the contempt alone. There are three degrees of Criminal Contempt. There is Criminal Contempt in the First and Second Degrees and there is Aggravated Criminal Contempt. There are many ways in which a person can be in contempt of the court. By far and away, the most common arrests for Criminal Contempt are in the context of violations of an "Order of Protection." The New York Penal Code refers to what is commonly known as a "Restraining Order" as an Order of Protection. It is basically a court order that a person stay away from another person. This usually comes up in the context of domestic violence accusations where the purported victim of the crime and the perpetrator have reconciled, but the order is still in place.
An Order of Protection is usually given whenever the District Attorney's Office asks for it in a particular case. As a policy matter, an Assistant District Attorney will ask for an Order of Protection whenever a witness to a crime knows the defendant in the case. The order makes it a separate crime to contact the witness. If the court issues a full order (which they usually do), any contact will be a violation of the order. Even an apology is a violation of the order if it is a full order. If the person violates that order, he is guilty of Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree. If the person threatens the witness or has previously been convicted of Criminal Contempt, then he commits Criminal Contempt in the First Degree. Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree is a class A misdemeanor and Criminal Contempt in the First Degree is a class E felony. If the person actually causes physical injury to the witness, then the person is guilty of Aggravated Criminal Contempt, which is a class D felony. The duration of the order usually lasts for the duration of the case. If a person is convicted, the order lasts for several years after the conviction. The length of the order after conviction depends on two factors. First, the kind of crime itself. Second, the nature and relationship between the defendant and the witness. If a person is exonerated then the order immediately disappears.
Criminal Contempt, in all forms, is a serious accusation. Not only can a person accused of Criminal Contempt go to jail, but judges routinely set bail or remand people for Criminal Contempt because they believe by being in contempt of the court's orders and rulings, the person is likely to violate other orders by the court.
Despite the seriousness of the accusations, there are defenses and a good New York criminal defense attorney can help. If you, or a loved one, is accused of Criminal Contempt, do not hesitate to contact John Buza for a free consultation.