New York Domestic Violence Laws

The basics of New York's domestic violence laws and penalties for family offenses.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated April 25, 2024

In New York, acts of domestic violence can result in mandatory arrests, criminal charges, orders of protection, jail time, fines, and firearm restrictions.

What Is Domestic Violence in New York?

Domestic violence involves crimes committed by or against a family or household member, also called "family offenses."

Family Offenses in NY

The law defines family or household members to include:

  • current and former spouses
  • persons related by blood or marriage
  • persons who have a child together
  • persons who live together or who have lived together continually or at regular intervals, and
  • persons who are or have been in an intimate relationship.

Family offenses include (but are not limited to) assault, menacing, sexual abuse or misconduct, strangulation, stalking, harassment, and coercion.

Orders of Protection in NY

Victims of domestic violence or family offenses can ask a court for orders of protection. An order of protection prohibits the abuser from harming, threatening, or contacting the victim. It can also order the abuser to move out of a shared home, surrender any weapons, and stay away from a victim's work or school. A violation can mean criminal charges. A judge can issue a similar order in criminal court when a suspect is charged with a family offense.

(N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 530.11; N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act § 812; N.Y. Soc. Serv. Law § 459-a (2024).)

Domestic Violence Laws in New York

New York doesn't have a crime called "domestic violence." For the most part, acts of domestic violence are charged under general criminal laws (like assault, menacing, and stalking). One exception is the crime of "aggravated family offense," which imposes felony penalties for repeat offenses against family or household members. A few crimes also impose stiffer penalties if the act violates an order of protection. Other domestic violence laws cover arrest and bail policies and impose firearm restrictions to protect victims of family offenses.

Both criminal and family courts in New York can issue orders in domestic violence or family offense cases. For more information on remedies available in each court, check out the New York Court Systems Self-Help Page on Domestic Violence.

Domestic Violence Crimes and Penalties in New York

Below are some of the most common crimes involved in domestic violence cases and their penalties under New York law.

Assault in the First, Second, and Third Degrees

A person commits assault by recklessly or intentionally causing physical injuries to another person. Assault starts as a class A misdemeanor. Penalties increase to a class B or D felony if the person uses a deadly weapon, causes serious physical injuries, or both.

(N.Y. Penal Law §§ 120.00, 120.05, 120.10 (2024).)

Menacing in the First, Second, and Third Degrees

Menacing crimes involve intentionally causing or attempting to cause another person to fear imminent physical harm. Penalties for menacing range from a class B misdemeanor to a class E felony. The penalties increase when a defendant displays a deadly weapon, repeatedly follows the person, has a prior menacing conviction, or commits the offense in violation of an order of protection.

(N.Y. Penal Law §§ 120.13, 120.14, 120.15 (2024).)

Stalking and Harassment Crimes

Stalking and harassment carry misdemeanor and felony penalties in New York.

Stalking involves intentionally following, monitoring, or communicating with someone in a manner that's likely to cause the victim to fear for their own or another's safety or that causes the victim mental or emotional harm. Penalties for stalking range from a class B misdemeanor to a class D felony.

Harassment crimes refer to a broad range of actions intended to harass, annoy, or alarm another person, including physical contact (such as shoving or kicking), following, or communicating with another with no legitimate purpose. The crime becomes aggravated harassment if the defendant threatens physical harm. Harassment starts as a violation and increases to a class A misdemeanor.

(N.Y. Penal Law §§ 120.45, 120.50, 120.55, 120.60, 240.25, 240.26, 240.30 (2024).)

Strangulation and Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation

New York makes it a crime to restrict a person's normal breathing or blood circulation by applying pressure to the throat or neck or blocking their nose or mouth. The offense starts as a class A misdemeanor but increases to a class D felony if any physical injury occurs or the victim loses consciousness. Class C felony penalties apply when the defendant causes serious physical injuries.

(N.Y. Penal Law §§ 121.11, 121.12, 121.13 (2024).)

Criminal Contempt for Violating an Order of Protection

Violating a court order of protection—whether issued in criminal or family court—is a class A misdemeanor for a first offense and a class E felony for a repeat offense. It also becomes a class E felony any time:

  • the defendant displays a weapon or stalks, harasses, or threatens the protected person, or
  • the defendant damages the protected person's property in an amount over $250.

The crime becomes aggravated criminal contempt—a class D felony—if the defendant harms the victim or commits a second or subsequent felony-level violation.

(N.Y. Penal Law §§ 215.50, 215.51, 215.52 (2024).)

Aggravated Family Offense

New York has a crime called "aggravated family offense." Under this law, a defendant who's convicted of a second or subsequent misdemeanor family offense in five years will face felony charges. The victims don't need to be the same.

The felony enhancement kicks in when the defendant's current conviction and a prior conviction involve one of the more than 50 specified offenses against a family or household member (including all of the offenses listed above). An aggravated family offense is a class E felony.

(N.Y. Penal Law § 240.75 (2024).)

Domestic Violence Arrest, Bail, and Firearm Provisions in New York

New York law recognizes the high risk of harm in domestic violence cases. It allows for warrantless arrests, restrictions on firearms, and bail conditions when a defendant is suspected or convicted of domestic violence.

Arrests in Domestic Violence Cases

New York has a mandatory arrest policy for domestic violence cases. An officer can make a warrantless arrest in cases involving a crime committed against a family or household member or a violation of an order of protection. If the suspect possesses a firearm or similar weapon, the officer must take temporary custody of the weapon.

(N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 140.10 (2024).)

Bail in Domestic Violence Cases

A special provision in New York law covers "protection for victims of family offenses." This section covers conditions of release when a suspect is charged with a family offense. In addition to typical bail conditions, the judge may issue a temporary order of protection that directs the suspect to stay away from the victim, to move out of a shared residence, and not to contact, harm, or threaten the victim, their children, or their pets.

Violating the order can result in arrest, bail forfeiture, and criminal charges. If the suspect is convicted, the judge can extend the order for a set number of years.

(N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 530.12 (2024).)

Firearm Restrictions in Domestic Violence Cases

Anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or a felony is prohibited from possessing a firearm under New York and federal law. It's also a crime to possess a firearm while subject to a final order of protection.

(N.Y. Penal Law § 265.01 (2024); 18 U.S.C. § 922 (2024).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you're facing charges for a domestic violence crime or were served with a protective order, talk to a criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you understand how the legal system works, what to expect at court hearings, and what penalties may apply.

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