Criminal Contempt (NYPL 215.50)

Criminal contempt is one of several criminal offenses in New York designed to ensure the efficiency and integrity of court proceedings.  Criminal contempt involves disobeying a court order or in some way disrupting judicial proceedings.  While criminal contempt charges are often associated with violating orders of protection related to domestic violence, you can be charged with criminal contempt for simply exhibiting behavior in a courtroom determined to be disorderly or disrespectful.  There are three criminal contempt offenses in New York:  criminal contempt in the second degree, criminal contempt in the first degree, and aggravated criminal contempt.

Contact a criminal defense lawyer if you have been charged with Criminal Contempt!

Criminal contempt in the second degree

Criminal contempt in the second degree seeks to punish those who behave in a manner that disrupts judicial proceedings.  The statute is very specific about what types of behavior it prohibits, including:

  • Disorderly and insolent behavior
  • Noise or other disturbance that interrupts a court’s proceedings
  • Intentional disobedience of a court mandate
  • Refusal to be sworn as a witness or refusal to submit to legal interrogation after being sworn
  • Knowingly publishing a false report of a court’s proceedings
  • Intentional failure to obey any mandate related to jury duty
  • While standing near a courthouse, verbal or written comments regarding an ongoing proceeding

Criminal contempt in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor.  N.Y. Pen. Law § 215.50.  If you are convicted you could spend up to a year in jail.

Criminal contempt in the first degree

Criminal contempt in the first degree is primarily aimed at punishing those who violate orders of protection.  You will face this charge if you violate an order of protection issued in New York or in another jurisdiction by threatening the subject of the order of protection with death or physical injury; by harassing that person via the phone, mail, or electronically; by following that person;  by harassing that person by kicking, striking, or with any other type of physical contact;  or by intentionally damaging that person’s property.

In addition, criminal contempt in the first degree is the charge  you will face if you refuse to comply with the requirements of being a witness before a grand jury.

It is a Class E felony.  N.Y. Pen. Law § 215.51.  If you are convicted, you could be sent to prison for up to 4 years.

Aggravated criminal contempt

Aggravated criminal contempt is the most serious criminal contempt charge.  It is a Class D felony with a possible punishment of up to 7 years in prison.   You will be arrested and charged with aggravated criminal contempt if you violate an order of protection and intentionally cause the subject of the order of protection a physical injury, or if you again commit criminal contempt after having been previously convicted of it.  N.Y. Pen. Law § 215.52

If you are charged with criminal contempt based on violating an order of protection or for any other reason, it is important that you are represented by an attorney with experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts.