Domestic Violence Lawyers
Being accused of domestic violence is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a person. Even more devastating is the fact that some domestic violence accusations are false or overblown. For example, what looks like domestic abuse to a police officer might actually be self-defense. Other times, no abuse took place, but under mandatory arrest laws, someone must be arrested when a 911 call is made. And in the most unjust cases, the so-called victim falsely accuses their family member of abuse to get even in custody, divorce, and estate battles.
A charge of domestic violence alone, even without a conviction, can have a devastating impact on your life. Domestic abuse charges can stay on your permanent criminal record if you do not address them quickly and effectively.
A New York family offense charge
can cause you to lose:
1 Your job
2 Your home
3 Custody of your children
4 Your gun rights
5 Your green card or immigration status
6 Your reputation
If you have been arrested or charged with domestic violence in New York, there is no time to waste. The sooner you contact Santana Law Firm, the sooner our team of NY domestic violence lawyers can evaluate your case and take steps to preserve your rights. Led by a former Brooklyn prosecutor, our lawyers know the ins and outs of the NYC criminal justice system and the best strategies to protect those accused of crimes.
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What Is Domestic Violence in New York?
Many people are surprised to learn that domestic violence isn’t always defined as physical abuse between a husband and wife. Per NY criminal law, domestic abuse is any pattern of behavior that one person allegedly uses to assert control over an intimate partner. This includes physical and sexual contact, but it can also include something as simple as verbal statements. In New York State, domestic violence can be between:
- Couples who are dating, engaged, or married
- Couples who are separated or divorced
- People who have a child together, even if they are not in a relationship
- Family members who are related by blood or marriage, including in-laws, siblings, and cousins
- People who live or have lived together, even if they are not in an intimate or family relationship
- Same-sex couples
There is no one charge under New York penal law called “domestic violence.” Instead, there are a variety of criminal charges that, when perpetrated against a family member or intimate partner, are considered “family offenses.” This includes assault, stalking, harassment, disorderly conduct, sexual abuse, threats, larceny, and coercion.
In many cases, those accused of family offenses are charged with multiple felonies and/or misdemeanors. Prosecutors do this to increase their chances of a conviction. You only need to be proven guilty of one charge to face serious jail time and economic penalties.
New York Domestic Violence Statutes
Domestic violence charges have some of the most severe penalties in New York State. Even the least serious offenses include penalties of jail time and fines, while the most serious crimes can land you in prison for 25 years.
Under the NYS Penal Law, family offense crimes include:
1Assault (PEN § 120.00, PEN § 120.05, PEN § 120.10): There are several types of assault defined in New York’s penal law, but assault is generally when a person intentionally or recklessly causes injury to another person by hitting, punching, kicking, throwing something, or using a deadly weapon.
2Stalking (PEN § 120.45, PEN § 120.50, PEN § 120.55, PEN § 120.60): When a person engages in repeated contact that harasses, annoys or alarms another person, or that causes another person to reasonably fear for their physical safety (i.e., following or tracking). If the contact led to physical injury, it is considered the most severe stalking crime.
3Harassment (PEN § 240.25, PEN § 240.26): When a person intentionally harasses or annoys another person for no legitimate reason. Aggravated harassment can also include harassment that takes place over the phone or computer, or that includes a discriminatory component on the basis of race, gender, or another protected identity.
4Menacing (PEN § 120.13, PEN § 120.14, PEN § 120.15): When a person threatens someone else with serious injury or death. This is considered a crime even if the person does not intend to follow through on such threats.
5Strangulation/criminal obstruction of breathing (PEN § 121.11, PEN § 121.12, PEN § 121.13): When a person intentionally applies pressure to the throat or neck and/or blocks the nose or mouth of someone else to cause harm.
6Disorderly conduct (PEN § 240.20): When a person disturbs others by engaging in fighting or threatening behavior, making obscene gestures, or creating a hazardous situation. Unlike other family offenses, disorderly conduct is a violation, which is less serious than a misdemeanor and comes with a sentence of no more than 15 days in jail.
7Endangering the welfare of a child (PEN § 260.10): When a person knowingly acts in a manner that is likely to cause physical or mental harm to a child under 17.
Domestic Violence Sentences:
Misdemeanor vs. Felony
With most family offenses, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony depending on the severity of the alleged crime and whether you have prior convictions. There are also different classes of crimes that correlate to potential sentences. For example, someone convicted of a class A misdemeanor may receive the maximum sentence, while someone convicted of a class B misdemeanor will usually receive less jail time.
Misdemeanors, which are considered less serious crimes, may be punishable by probation, fines up to $1,000, and 15 days to one year in jail.
Felonies, which are the most serious crimes under New York law, may be punishable by one to 25 years in prison. Felony convictions can also cause you to lose your voting rights and your ability to hold some professional licenses.
Family offense charges are rarely dropped by district attorneys, even if the victim recants their statement or declines to press charges. So, tche reality is that if you are arrested for domestic violence, you will likely need to defend yourself all the way through trial or plea negotiations.
Your chances of getting the charges dropped (or never being filed in the first place) increase if you enlist the help of an aggressive domestic violence lawyer as soon as you are arrested. A highly skilled attorney may be able to investigate your case and influence the district attorney’s decision to press charges before the police can. If you have already been charged, an experienced lawyer can help you get the best possible outcome while minimizing the long-term effects on your life.
Should you take a plea deal?
Although taking a plea deal may be the best decision in some cases, you should never take a plea deal without first talking to a lawyer. Accepting the prosecutor’s offer means you will give up your right to a trial and plead guilty to a crime, which may leave you with a permanent criminal record. A skilled lawyer can evaluate the offer, negotiate a better deal, and determine if you can get a better outcome by going to trial.
Defenses to Familial Assault Charges in NYC
Although the penalties for DV are serious, there are ways to defend against them. In criminal cases, the burden is on the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you’ve committed a crime. If you can demonstrate that you did not commit the crime you were charged with, that you had a valid reason for your behavior, or that your rights as a defendant were violated, you may be able to avoid conviction or the most serious penalties.
Possible defenses to a domestic abuse charge include:
1Lack of Proof: There is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed a crime.
2False Accusation: The victim falsely accused you of abuse, and you are able to prove it with an alibi or through inconsistencies in the victim’s story. This is most common in contentious divorce and custody battles.
3Self Defense: You engaged in aggression or violence only to defend yourself against someone else who initiated the violence. This may also include stepping in to defend someone else.
4Wrong Suspect: You are not the person who committed the crime, and you were wrongfully arrested and charged.
5Police Misconduct: Police falsely arrested you or engaged in illegal/inappropriate behavior such as intimidation, racial profiling, or brutality.
6Entrapment: You were encouraged to engage in wrongful behavior by police or another public official when you would not have otherwise committed a crime.
7Prosecutorial Misconduct: The prosecutor acted inappropriately to wrongfully convict you or impose a harsher sentence than normal.
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How to Choose a Good Domestic Violence Lawyer
If you’ve been arrested for domestic violence, your future is on the line. You need someone on your side who will fight for you and use every strategy possible to reduce the chances of conviction and a serious sentence.
When looking for a lawyer, you should look for:
- Experience. How long has the lawyer been practicing? Do they specialize in domestic violence? Have they handled your type of charge before? Are they familiar with New York City’s complex criminal justice system? These are important questions to ask before you hire a lawyer.
- Trial Skill. Would you trust your life with a surgeon who has read a lot of surgical books, but has never actually performed a surgery? It’s the same with lawyers. If your case goes to trial, you need a lawyer who has gone to trial and won multiple times. Be wary of lawyers who only get plea deals for their clients—they may not have the skills necessary to win a criminal trial.
- Professionalism. In the criminal system, judges, defense lawyers, and prosecutors often know each other. Although your lawyer’s professional reputation shouldn’t have an impact on your case, the truth of the matter is that it does. Look for a lawyer who is detailed, has strong negotiation skills, and is well known and respected in the field.
What Makes Santana Law Firm Different
Santana Law Firm founder Jaime Santana has two decades of experience defending clients against serious criminal charges. As a former Brooklyn prosecutor and judge, Jaime knows firsthand how the city’s prosecutors approach domestic violence cases. The Santana Law Firm team understands the best strategies to stay ahead of the police and the district attorney’s office to minimize the damage of a domestic violence arrest.
Our lawyers take an aggressive approach and prepare for every case as if it will go to trial. We don’t wait around to see what prosecutors will do—we take decisive action right away to protect your rights and reputation.
Most importantly, our dedication is visible in our results. We have helped countless clients get their charges dropped, avoid jail time, win trials, and negotiate deals that allowed them to continue on with their lives.
Contact our office today for a free, confidential case evaluation. Our team of NYC domestic violence lawyers can get started immediately to coordinate bail, review police reports, find witnesses, and develop a plan to defend you.