New York Penal Law § 215.51 - Criminal Contempt in the First Degree
Criminal Contempt in the First Degree is a crime prohibiting people from engaging in conduct that interferes with certain official proceedings, including criminal trials. Criminal Contempt in the 2nd Degree is a class E felony.The Elements of Criminal Contempt in the First Degree
Under NY Penal Law § 215.51, there are several ways one can commit Criminal Contempt in the First Degree:
- Refusing to be sworn as a witness or answering questions before a grand jury;
- Violating an order of protection by displaying a weapon to place another person in fear of physical injury;
- Violating an order of protection by stalking or harassing another person;
- Violating an order of protection by engaging in electronic communication;
- Violating an order of protection by repeatedly making phone calls that have no legitimate conversational purpose;
- Violating an order of protection by engaging in threatening physical contact;
- Violating an order of protection by physical menace; or
- Committing a second violation of criminal attempt.
Any of the above acts involving a violation of an order of protection require the defendant to act intentionally to place the person who sought the order of protection in reasonable fear of physical injury, serious physical injury or death.Examples of Criminal Contempt in the First Degree
There are several ways one can commit Criminal Content in the First Degree, most of which involve violating an order of protection that was taken out against the defendant. An order of protection is commonly issued in domestic violence cases that originate either in family court or criminal court. While minor or incidental contact or communication is not considered Criminal Content in the First Degree, engaging in any behavior that is intended to annoy, harass, threaten, injure or intimidate the person who took out the order of protection falls within the statute.
For example, having a friend repeatedly send text messages to a former romantic partner who took out an order of protection against you could be considered Criminal Contempt in the First Degree.Related Offenses to NY Penal Law § 215.51
Often, prosecutors bring Criminal Contempt in the First Degree charges along with one or more of the following:
- Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree – NY Penal Law § 215.50
- Strangulation in the Second Degree – NY Penal Law § 121.12
- Aggravated Criminal Contempt – NY Penal Law § 215.52
- Assault in the Third Degree – NY Penal Law § 120.00
- Assault in the Second Degree – NY Penal Law § 120.05
- Intimidating a Victim or Witness in the Third Degree – NY Penal Law § 215.15
The defenses to Criminal Contempt in the First Degree vary, depending on which subsection applies. However, most offenses require the prosecution to prove that the defendant intentionally acted to put the other person in reasonable fear of physical injury, serious physical injury or death. Thus, challenging the reasonableness of the alleged victim’s fear of injury is a common defense. Disputing that a defendant acted with the intent to place another in fear of injury is also a common defense.What Are the Penalties for Violating NY Penal Law § 215.51?
Criminal Contempt in the First Degree is a class E felony. In New York, class A misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum of four years in prison. The court may also assess a fine of up to $5,000.Speak with an Experienced New York Criminal Defense Attorney About Criminal Contempt Charges Today
If you have an upcoming court date for a criminal contempt case, it is essential that you have a dedicated New York criminal defense attorney by your side throughout the process. At Tilem & Associates, P.C., we have over two decades of experience aggressively representing men and women charged with contempt crimes. We are immediately available to meet with you to discuss your charges and start working on a defense. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call 877-377-8666. You can also reach us through our online contact form.