Differences Between Assault and Domestic Violence Charges in New York

 Understanding the differences between assault and domestic violence charges in New York is instrumental when building a domestic violence case. While the offenses might seem similar, it is important to consider what makes the charges different, and how these differences can impact your case. If you have been charged with domestic violence, consult an experienced and intelligent domestic violence lawyer that can break the differences down, and explain the implications of the charges you face.

Defining Assault

The crime of assault occurs when one person physically contacts or causes something to physically contact another person to cause physical injury, and that has been interpreted to mean either substantial pain or some sort of bruising. It is more than just touching somebody in a way that is non-consensual. It actually has to cause some sort of pain and discomfort.

Defining Domestic Violence

There is no New York law that constitutes domestic violence. Domestic violence is an umbrella term based on the victimology of the crime itself. Domestic violence could be assault, it could be menacing,  it could be harassment, it could be stalking, or it could be criminal content if there is an order of protection between two parties and one person violates it.

What makes a crime a domestic violence crime is the nature of the relationship between the complainant in the case and the defendant. Domestic violence cases occur between two people who are either in an intimate relationship or related by what is called consanguinity - which means there is some sort of blood relationship and they are family members.

Under What Circumstances Can a Person Be Charged With Both

A person can be charged with domestic violence and assault simultaneously if there is an assault that takes place and there is an intimate relationship between the accused and the accuser. For example, if the parties are married, dating were married or living together in some sort of romantic fashion or if they are related by blood being brother-sister or parent-child or grandparent-grandchild and an incident occurs, then it will be charged as assault, but the characteristic of that case would be domestic violence.

Reasons That Domestic Violence and Assault Are Charged Differently in New York

While they are charged under the same statute, there are differences between assault and domestic violence charges in New York. The fact is that there is a crime for assault, menacing, and for harassment, but there is no crime for domestic violence.

An assault might be charged as domestic violence or it might not be charged as a domestic violence crime, but it is not possible in New York to charge somebody with a bland assertion of domestic violence. There has to be a section of the Penal Law that is alleged to have been violated and there is no section for just a violation of the domestic violence statute.

Charging somebody with assault may fall under a rubric of domestic violence depending on the relationship of the parties but it may not, depending on if the parties are not involved in some sort of intimate relationship or related by blood. It is really the relationship that drives the case.

Difference in Defense Strategies

The strategy is undertaken on a case-by-case basis but, in general, with the understanding that domestic violence assault cases kind of touch on these extremely human emotions. One of the differences between assault and domestic violence charges in New York are that when people are romantically involved or when people are family, a lot of times, they are conflicted about whether or not they want to really pursue charges. Sometimes, the case is the final straw and the complainant has had enough and they want to hold the defendant responsible.

That happens, but a lot of times in domestic violence cases, there is a real internal struggle by a complainant on whether or not they really want to go forward and whether or not they want to prosecute. And so understanding that and being able to kind of capitalize on the fact that the complainants in the case are not always so cooperative really helps bolster the defendant's trial strategy. Whereas, in a general assault case, you might take a different angle and craft a defense completely different based on the fact that the parties might not know each other.