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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New York Toughens Domestic Violence Laws

New York legislators reached an agreement to create a new crime of Aggravated Felony Offense which increases penalties for repeat domestic violence offenders.  This new crime will make it a felony to commit a domestic violence misdemeanor offense if you have a previous domestic violence conviction in the preceding five years.  It will bump the charge up to a class E felony with a minimum sentence of 5 years probation and a maximum of four years incarceration.  The rationale behind the new law is to give the prosecutors another weapon to treat repeat offenders more harshly. Prior to this law, the DA would be limited to charging misdemeanor crimes unless an order of protection was in effect and then they might be able to charge a felony charge of Criminal Contempt of Court.

This new law also creates a new class A misdemeanor crime of Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree for someone who causes physical injury to a family or household member with the intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm. The aggravated harassment misdemeanor takes effect in 60 days, and the aggravated family offense takes effect in 90 days, after the bill becomes law.

The law also includes a couple of other provisions two of which are important and one of which is meaningless in my opinion.  It allows for increased safeguards to protect the location of domestic violence victims.  It also ensures that a domestic violence offender  cannot control the disposition of a victim's remains.  Both of these provisions are good additions to the law.  The other provision allows judges to consider additional risk factors in determining bail on a domestic violence case.  While this was not a provision previously, prosecutors routinely argued these factors unfettered during bail requests and I have heard judges refer to them in deciding bail despite their absence for the statute.  

Given these new changes, I expect the prosecutors to start increasing the plea offers on domestic violence cases even before the law goes into effect.  Now more than ever, you need to consult with an experienced defense attorney if you or a loved one are accused of a domestic violence offense.

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