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Know the Laws: New York

UPDATED May 28, 2013

Even if you do not qualify for an order of protection, the abuser may have committed a crime.  If you call the police, they may arrest him/her for a crime and they may issue a restraining order through the criminal courts.  Remember that even if you do have an order of protection, you can still report him/her to the police if you believe s/he committed a crime against you.

What are some crimes that the abuser may have committed in New York?

If the abuser is arrested for a crime, do I get a criminal court order of protection?
What are the differences between a criminal court order of protection and a family court order of protection?
If I am the victim of a crime, where can I find additional help in New York? 

What are some crimes that the abuser may have committed in New York?

Here is a list of some possible crimes in New York that the abuser may have committed.  You can click on the links to read the legal definition of the crime in our State Statutes page:

If the abuser is arrested for a crime, do I get a criminal court order of protection?

Usually, yes, although this may vary from county to county.  If the abuser has committed a crime against you and is arrested and criminally charged, an order of protection may be issued on your behalf as early as the first time the abuser is brought in front of the judge (the arraignment).  In criminal court, the person who "petitions" for the order of protection is the State of New York, represented by the district attorney.  The victim of the crime is often referred to as the "victim" or the "complaining witness" (commonly abbreviated "CW").  The person against whom the order of protection is issued is called the "defendant." 

Often times, the order of protection can be extended from court date to court date and it may be continued by the judge even if the victim asks that it be dismissed.  The order of protection might be mailed to you since it is likely that you will not be present for the criminal court dates.  Therefore, you might not even be aware that you have an order of protection until days after it is already issued.  To be certain as to whether or not an order of protection was issued by the criminal court judge on your behalf, you may want to call the district attorney handling the case and ask as to whether one was issued.  If the abuser is convicted or pleads guilty, you may get a final order of protection that can last for multiple years depending on the crime and other factors.

What are the differences between a criminal court order of protection and a family court order of protection?

As explained in the prior question, if the abuser is arrested for a crime against you, you may get a criminal court order of protection after s/he is charged with the crime.  However, you may also have the right to file for a civil court (family court) order of protection as well.  Although both orders of protection can order that the abuser stay away from you and stop abusing you, there are some differences between the two:

  • In family court, you are the person initiating the case (a "party" in the case) and you can choose to continue with your case or withdraw it.  If you are a low-income person, you can likely get a lawyer appointed to represent you free of charge (or you can hire a private lawyer or use a legal services organization).  In criminal court, the People of the State of New York (represented by the district attorney) is the party who is bringing the criminal case and you may not have control over whether the case and the order of protection continue or are dropped.  You do not have your own lawyer representing you since you are not a party in the case. 
  • In family court, you usually have to be present on each court date for the order of protection to continue.  In criminal court, you might only have to be present if the case goes to trial but not at other court dates.  This is something to consider if you work or have other commitments that might make it difficult for you to attend each family court date.
  • To get a criminal court order, there must have been an arrest and a criminal charge whereas in family court, there does not need to be an arrest or criminal charge to get an order of protection.  (Check the NY State Statutes page to read about possible crimes the abuser may have committed.) 
  • A family court order of protection can do more than a criminal court order in terms of the relief that can be granted (such as temporary child support or temporary custody).
  • Since a family court order of protection can be issued for 5 years if there are "aggravating circumstances,"* a family court order of protection can often last longer than a criminal court order of protection.  (Check the section entitled What types of orders of protection are there? How long can they last? for the definition of aggravating circumstances).
  • Criminal cases require a higher level of proof of what happened than civil court cases.
* NY Fam Ct Act § 842

If I am the victim of a crime, where can I find additional help in New York?


The NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault has information related to the criminal justice system and sexual assault in New York:
The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence has a resource guide designed to help domestic violence victims find their way through the criminal justice system in New York State and learn ways to increase their safety.  It is available in English here.

You may learn more about crimes by calling your local police department, sheriff's department, or district attorney's office.  See our NY Sheriff Departments page for the contact information for your local sheriff's department.

If you are a victim of domestic violence and have been charged with a crime, you can go to our Battered Women Charged with Crimes page.

Other organizations for victims of crime are listed on our National Organizations - Crime Victims page.

You may want to contact the Stalking Resource Center if you are being stalked or harassed.

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