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New York Penal Code § 215.51: Criminal contempt in the first degree

New York Penal Code § 215.51: Criminal contempt in the first degree

Someone facing First Degree Criminal Contempt is being charged with the most serious form of this crime. This can happen when someone is issued an order by a judge but does not follow it. This applies when someone violates an Order of Protection or intentionally does not cooperate with a grand jury, or a judge’s instructions. The most common situation occurs when an individual violates an Order of Protection taken out against them and it is connected with a case of domestic violence.

Direct And Indirect

Criminal contempt in New York can be either direct or indirect. Direct contempt is something that typically occurs during court proceedings. It is behavior in a courtroom considered to be extreme. This could involve a defendant shouting profanities at a judge or others during legal proceedings. It could also involve an individual refusing to cooperate with a judge’s instructions when ordered to do so by the court. Indirect contempt involves someone intentionally disobeys a court order or a judgment and more.

Order Of Protection

This is a court order and prevents an individual from engaging in behaviors with a victim who requested it. Determining these behaviors will involve different factors. One is the type of relationship between the victim requesting the Order of Protection and the individual who is the focus of it. It may prohibit the person from calling the victim on the phone, speaking to them, texting or emailing them as well visiting them and more. It could also cause a person to lose certain child custody rights temporarily. A person may also be prevented from visiting the place where a victim goes to school or is employed. Should a person live with the victim, they may be required to leave their apartment or home.


In New York, an Order of Protection must have been duly served. It is also valid if it has not been duly served, but the individual was present in court at the time it was issued against them. There are many different ways individuals can violate them an Order of Protection.

*An individual could make a threat or threats against a victim as well as display a deadly weapon, firearm or gun or another dangerous instrument to them.

*An individual could intentionally place or try to have a victim placed in a situation where they experience reasonable fear of physical injury, serious physical injury or death.

*An individual regularly follows the victim. It could involve participating in this type of conduct once or regularly committing this act.

*An individual makes contact with the victim with the intent of causing them alarm, threatening them as well as annoying and harassing them. This could involve an individual striking, kicking or shoving the victim. It could also involve doing the same to other persons close to the victim as a way of a threat.

*An individual calls the victim on the telephone with the intention to alarm, harass, threaten, or annoy them. This could involve an individual making calls to the victim without a reason for legitimate conversation. This violation does not require a direct conversation to have taken place.


Criminal Contempt in the First Degree is a class E felony. Should a person be convicted of this, they can be sentenced to spend up to four years in prison. Should someone have a previous conviction of Second or First Degree Contempt, and are again charged with Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree, it will automatically be changed to Criminal Contempt in the First Degree. A conviction could also involve a fine of up to $5,000 and probation for up to five years.

Legal Defense

One of the most common legal defense for Criminal Contempt in the First Degree is showing an individual’s violation of the Order of Protection was unintentional. It also possible for a person to not understand what they are being told by a judge because of a language barrier or other reason.

When someone is charged with Criminal Contempt in the First Degree, it needs to be handled properly. An experienced attorney can analyze the facts of this situation and determine a course of action. They will know how to avoid problems and get their client the best possible result.

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