Domestic violence is a crime regardless of one’s immigration status. Threatening someone with deportation is a common tactic used by abusers. Please check with your local domestic violence organization or legal agency to find out if you are eligible for certain kinds of immigration relief.
A brief overview of the legal system:
The legal system is divided into two areas: civil law and criminal law. Separate courts administrate these two separate areas of the law.
Civil Law – Civil law covers cases/disputes where neither party is accused of a crime. In a civil domestic violence action (.e.g. filing for an Order of Protection in Family Court), you are asking the court to protect you from the person abusing you. You are not asking the court to punish that person for committing a crime. Family Court and Supreme Court fall under the category of civil courts.
Criminal Law – The criminal system covers all cases that involve violations of criminal law such as harassment, assault, murder, theft, etc. A criminal complaint is where you are charging your abuser with a crime.
Please note that if you get an Order of Protection from Family Court and your abuser violates it, it can be a crime. In that case, though, a judge in Family Court may hear the criminal case instead of a criminal court judge.
What is the legal definition of ‘family offense’ in New York?
Family offense includes any of the following acts when occurring between people who are married, separated, divorced, or are related by blood or marriage.
- Disorderly conduct
- Aggravated harassment
- Reckless endangerment
- Attempted assault
Please note that this definition of family offense does not extend to people who were never married or to same-sex couples. However, in those cases, one may be able to get an Order of Protection in criminal court depending on the specific circumstances.
Contact an attorney to speak about criminal matters, family law (divorce, custody), and immigration. For a listing of attorneys based in New York City, please click here.