*Content warning: discussion of domestic violence
What You Need to Know About Domestic Battery in New York: Penalties and Possible Defenses
Domestic violence victims can seek legal assistance and protection. Here’s everything you need to know about penalties and possible defenses for domestic battery in New York.
New York’s family law encompasses domestic violence. Individuals can take their cases to New York family court and potentially obtain protective orders.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence includes violent felony and misdemeanor offenses.
Individuals falling into one of the following categories can face domestic violence charges:
- A current or former spouse
- An intimate partner
- A person with whom the victim shares a child
- A spouse or intimate partner who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim
Additionally, a person who meets the same criteria as a spouse under a jurisdiction’s domestic or family violence laws can commit domestic violence under the legal definition.
What is a Domestic Battery?
In criminal law, the battery is any nonconsensual physical act causing harmful or offensive contact with another individual. The battery can involve assault, although some statutes use the term “assault” as a combination of the two offenses. For acts of physical violence, assault is the action that makes the victim expect imminent physical harm, while the battery is the harmful act itself.
If an individual commits an act of battery against someone they are or were in a domestic relationship with, they commit domestic battery.
Intimate Partner Relationships in New York
Under New York law, domestic violence and battery occur between two individuals in an intimate relationship. The legal definition of an intimate relationship includes people in the above categories and those related by blood or marriage.
Intimate partner relationships encompass former relationships and non-sexual relationships. Those who do not live with their abusers can still have an intimate partner relationship with them under New York law.
To determine whether a relationship qualifies as an “intimate” one, a New York court may examine the nature of the relationship, how often the individuals saw each other, and the length of the relationship. Under this framework, casual friends and coworkers do not qualify as intimate relationships.
Domestic Violence and Battery Laws in New York
New York state law does not identify a specific crime called “domestic violence” or “domestic battery.” New York courts often treat domestic violence charges as “family offenses.” Family members (those with intimate partner relationships) can file a family offense petition if they witness one family member committing a harmful act against another.
Examples of harmful acts include:
- Assault or attempted assault
- Sexual abuse
- Forcible touching
How to File a Family Offense Petition
People in an intimate partner relationship who experience domestic violence (including domestic battery) can file a Family Offense Petition.
1. Go to the courthouse’s Clerk’s Office or Court Help Center.
An individual can complete the required paperwork beforehand or complete it with the court staff. Court interpreters are available for those whose first language is not English.
2. Fill out the Family Offense Petition form to ask for an Order of Protection.
In this petition, you will provide information about the parties involved, addresses, the nature of the intimate partnership relationship, details about the domestic violence act(s), and desired relief.
3. See a judge or referee.
A judge or referee will listen to an individual’s description of events. The perpetrator will not be present for these proceedings. The judge will determine whether a temporary order of protection is appropriate. If granted, the order of protection will last until the individual’s next court appearance. The judge can continually extend this order until the case ends.
Family Court Penalties for Domestic Battery in New York
Orders of Protection
Family courts can issue orders of protection if they find an individual committed a domestic violence offense. Protection orders can block the perpetrator from interacting with the protected individual and committing harmful acts.
Orders of protection can also do the following:
- Give custody of children to the protected person
- Require the perpetrator to pay child or spousal support
- Require the perpetrator to pay legal or medical costs
- Require the perpetrator to attend an intervention program for abusive partners
- Set the guidelines for visitation
Full or stay-away orders require perpetrators to have no direct or indirect contact with the protected person. Limited orders allow some contact but prevent any further family or criminal offenses.
Order of Protection Length
When a family court issues an order of protection, it lasts up to two years (or five years under aggravating circumstances). A criminal court’s final order of protection can last up to a maximum of eight years, depending on the circumstances of the specific crime.
Possible Defenses Against Domestic Battery Charges in New York
Outside of arguing the offense did not occur or that the accuser’s claims are a fabrication, an individual who believes they have been wrongfully accused of domestic battery or domestic violence can argue self-defense. In crimes like battery involving force, justified self-defense would be using this force to protect oneself or one’s children.
New York Statute of Limitations for Domestic Battery
Statutes of limitations are laws dictating how long an individual has to commence a case after an alleged offense. Beyond this period, individuals cannot start court cases.
For assault and battery, the statute of limitations in New York is one year since the act for civil cases and between two and five years for criminal cases.