Calling in domestic violence complaints to “teach someone a lesson” can have unintended consequences.
Not every complainant in a domestic violence case wants the person arrested to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The problem is that after the police are called, the complainant doesn’t control how the case gets resolved.
Some complainants in domestic violence cases have expressed concerns similar to these:
- “I only wanted the police to talk to him and tell him to take a walk, so he would cool down. I didn’t want them to arrest him.”
- “I became upset because I’m bipolar and I’m not supposed to drink when I take my meds. Someone saw us arguing and claimed my husband hit me. He didn’t hit me. But the prosecutor says he doesn’t believe me.”
- “I didn’t want him arrested. I didn’t even call the police. A neighbor did. I never told the officer he hit me. The officer’s lying. She asked if he hit me and I said, ‘No’. She said she didn’t believe me.”
- “I lied to the police. I said he hit me, but he didn’t. I was mad, so I lied. The next day, I tried to tell the police that it wasn’t true, but they said they’d arrest me if I changed my story.”
- “I told the prosecutor that I want to drop the charges, but she refuses to dismiss the case.”
- “I want to talk to my husband to see if we can work things out, but I can’t because the DA won’t drop the order of protection.”
- “My husband assaulted me. Since the incident, I’ve filed for divorce. If he’s convicted, he’ll lose his job, and he won’t be able to provide child support for our daughter. I don’t want him to get convicted and lose his job. I’ve explained this to the prosecutor, but she refuses to dismiss the case.”
In New York City, calling the police about a domestic issue is something you can’t take back. It’s an irreversible act. You should know the possible consequences of such a call before you make it:
- The NYPD requires its officers to make arrests on virtually all domestic violence calls. If you call the police, someone will be leaving your home in handcuffs.
- On domestic violence calls, all firearms in the home must be immediately surrendered to the police. If it turns out that proper registration or licensing doesn’t exist, weapons charges will follow.
- Police do not issue desk appearance tickets on domestic violence cases, so the person arrested will spend approximately 24 hours in police custody before seeing a judge for arraignment.
- If the judge sets bail at arraignment, the defendant will remain in custody until someone posts the bail. (The complainant can’t post bail for the defendant.)
- At arraignment, the Court will issue an order of protection, directing the defendant to have no contact or communication with the complainant. (The Court will do this even if you stand up in the courtroom and swear to the judge that you don’t want an order of protection, because the Court will be concerned that you’re under the defendant’s control and that you’re saying this at his behest.)
- The complainant and the defendant can’t live together while the order of protection is in effect, so your family will pay the cost of two sets of living expenses instead of one.
- Unless the defendant is financially eligible for a court-appointed lawyer, the defendant will have to pay a substantial sum of money to hire a criminal defense lawyer.
- If the defendant’s livelihood depends on a government-issued license or registration (such as a TLC license to drive a cab, or a nursing license ), or if the defendant is employed by a government agency (such as the NYC Department of Education, or the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation), the licensing agency or the employer will be immediately notified about the arrest, which might result in suspension or termination of employment.
- If the defendant is convicted of a crime, the defendant will have a criminal record. Since New York doesn’t have an “expungement” statute, the conviction will stay on the defendant’s record for the rest of the defendant’s life.
- If the defendant is convicted of a crime, the defendant’s current and future employment prospects could be adversely affected.
If your safety is threatened, then you should certainly call the police.
If you merely want to “teach someone a lesson”, think twice. Criminal complaints can have unintended consequences.
Bruce Yerman is a New York City criminal defense attorney. If you would like to discuss domestic violence charges, contact Bruce for a free consultation: