NYC Family Offense Petition Lawyers

In New York, a family offense petition is the official name for a restraining order or a personal protection order. When a person commits a prohibited act against a family member, the family member can petition the court for the order of protection. The order both provides for immediate penalties against the offender and provides for future protection for the victimized family member.

Qualifying offenses for a family offense petition include the following:

  • Repeatedly contacting a family member despite requests to be left alone
  • Hitting or punching the victim
  • Throwing an object at the victim
  • Endangering the victim
  • Threats
  • Taunting or harassment
  • Criminal mischief
  • Disorderly conduct

What’s a family member?

A family member includes a blood relative or someone who is related by marriage. Step-siblings, step-parents and step-children count as family members. Ex-spouses count, too, so you may file a family offense petition regarding an ex-husband or ex-wife. If the parties are unmarried but have a child in common, they are considered family for the purposes of filing a family offense petition.

What happens when someone files a family offense petition?

When a person files a family offense petition, the court hears the case as soon as possible. The court should review the case immediately. If the court finds that there’s good cause to believe that the allegations are true, they can put a temporary order in place. A temporary order:

  • Lasts until an official hearing can be scheduled and heard
  • Can include a warrant for the person’s arrest
  • May include an order for temporary child support

An arrest warrant is appropriate in cases where the court believes the victim may be in immediate danger.

What happens next?

The person who is the subject of a family offense petition is called the respondent. The respondent can agree to allow the court to issue a protection order. If they don’t agree, the just conducts a hearing on the facts alleged in the petition. If the judge agrees that the allegations are true, the judge decides what order to enter.

The hearing to decide what order to enter is called a disposition hearing. The disposition hearing may occur immediately, or the judge may take time to gather information. If the judge doesn’t believe that the allegations are true, the judge dismisses the petition.

What are the possible dispositions?

The court can choose from a range of possible disposition orders. A disposition order can include one or more of the following provisions:

  • Postponing a judgment for six months as an informal probation for the offender
  • Putting the offender on formal probation for up to a year
  • Ordering the offender to attend a domestic violence intervention program
  • Alcohol treatment
  • Drug treatment
  • A requirement that the offender pay restitution up to a maximum amount of $10,000
  • A protective order for the victim of up to two years or up to five years in special circumstances

If the court enters a protective order, the protective order may contain any of these requirements:

  • That the respondent avoid contact with the victim and their minor children
  • Payment of attorney fees
  • Payment of medical bills
  • Avoid the petitioner’s place of employment or school
  • That the respondent not reoffend
  • Removal of personal property from the home
  • A visitation order for children
  • An order not to harm the petitioner’s pets or children

What happens if there’s a violation?

The court can sentence the respondent to jail for up to six months for each violation of the order. The family court can also refer the matter to criminal court. A respondent who violates the order may lose their right to own a firearm. The accused person has a right to the services of counsel at all stages of the case. In family court, a petitioner may file their own petition with or without the assistance of counsel. In criminal court, the district attorney may work on behalf of the petitioner.