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Court Decides Constitutionality of Family Law Statute

A New York Family Lawyer said when defendant was arraigned in this court on August 25, 1998, on a single count of aggravated harassment in the second degree, two separate non-family offense orders of protection were issued pursuant to CPL 530.13. Both were full stay-away orders protecting four named individuals. The matter was marked for conference and adjourned for two days, at which time the defendant requested a hearing to test the legality of the orders. A New York Custody Lawyer said that, when the matter was adjourned to this court, the People withdrew their prior consent and objected to holding the hearing, arguing that defendant did not have a right to an evidentiary hearing solely at his request. The matter was thereupon adjourned for submission of memoranda of law.

A Queens Family Lawyer said that, defendant’s motion challenges the constitutionality of CPL 530.12 and 530.13, arguing that the failure of these statutes to provide for an adversarial evidentiary hearing at defendant’s request before a temporary order of protection is issued or continued deprives defendant and others similarly situated of due process guarantees of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and article I, § 6 of the New York Constitution.

The issue in this case is whether CPL 530.12 and 530.13 is constitutional.

A Queens Child Custody Lawyer said the Court said that, before a determination can be made that a statute violates the Due Process Clause, the moving party must establish standing: does there exist a sufficient “life, liberty or property” interest affected by the statute or government action which would trigger due process protection? Orders of protection impact upon the right to use and enjoy a domicile and can impact upon relations with persons neither witnesses nor victims of the crimes alleged. Both CPL sections can impact on a license to carry, possess, repair or sell firearms, potentially having a significant impact on a defendant’s legitimate professional or business pursuits.

The court finds that CPL 530.12 and 530.13 do sufficiently impact liberty or property interests so as to trigger due process protection and analysis. While the orders of protection in this case were issued under CPL 530.13, cases cited by defendant were all decided under the provision for family offenses, CPL 530.12. The liberty and property interests, however, are identical for both CPL sections. Considering the similarity in the intent of the Legislature enacting the statutes, the constitutionality of both statutes is considered in this opinion.

In determining the applicability of the Due Process Clause, the United States Supreme Court first asks whether the asserted individual interests are encompassed within the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection of life, liberty or property. If protected interests are implicated, the Court then decides what procedures constitute due process of law: substantive or procedural. Under substantive due process analysis, courts will strictly scrutinize a statute or other government action and require a showing of compelling interests in its deliberate acts whether legislative, executive or judicial that purposely affects fundamental rights of individuals. Even government actions that survive this scrutiny must still withstand procedural due process analysis. Here, if government action or statute impacts citizens as a function of the way that government is expected to act, then only the manner in which the government is exercising its lawful duty will be analyzed. To satisfy constitutional requirements, the statute or government action must have a real and substantial relation to the subject to be obtained and the methods to obtain that subject must not be unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious.

The statutory authorization for a local criminal court’s issuance of a family offense temporary order of protection pursuant to CPL 530.12 arose from Assembly Bill A 8842 of 1977, which became law on July 19 of that year. The bill amended the Domestic Relations Law by adding section 252, provided for the authority of the Supreme Court to issue temporary orders of protection in matrimonial proceedings and extensively revised article 8 of the Family Court Act to provide for the issuance of temporary orders of protection in the Family Courts and criminal courts.

This came about because complaining witnesses in Family Courts were withdrawing complaints and giving up because they had to return to court “endlessly” to obtain relief from abusers. Domestic Violence tends to escalate over time and a victim’s frustration with Family Court procedures was encouraging abusers. The temporary order of protection was necessary in all three courts so that the abused victim would not have to forego the protection by choice of forum. The bill gave the Family Courts and the criminal courts concurrent jurisdiction over any proceeding concerning acts which would constitute disorderly conduct, harassment, menacing, reckless endangerment, assault or attempted assault between spouses, parents and child or between members of the same family or household.

The right of a local criminal court to issue temporary orders of protection was again revisited by the Legislature in 1994 with the passage of the Family Protection and Domestic Violence Intervention Act. According to its Committee reports, the purpose of the statute was to further “integrate the purposes of the family and criminal laws to assure clear and certain standards of protection for New York’s families consistent with the interests of fairness and substantial justice.” The Act provided that the victims of domestic violence no longer must choose between the Family Courts and criminal courts to seek redress and relief from their abusers. The Act was strongly supported in the Senate and Assembly and was passed in response to, among other things, research that indicated that one of the major problems contributing to the recurrence of domestic violence was the lack of aggressive enforcement by law enforcement officials. The Act also amended the Family Court Act and Domestic Relations Law by allowing a local criminal court to issue a temporary order of protection on matters that would be returned to Family Court or Supreme Court when those courts were not in session. This Act also strengthened the temporary order of protection by providing for mandatory arrests for a violation thereof.

Here, generally, procedural due process analysis is all that is required. A statute enacted under the State’s police power whose effect but not purpose is to curtail the liberty of individuals to live their lives must bear a reasonable relationship, and some proportion to, the alleged public good which justifies the restriction of individual liberty. Protection of the health and safety of the public is a paramount government interest which justifies summary administrative action. CPL 530.12 and 530.13 and their sister statutes governing temporary orders of protection in Supreme Court and Family Court involve no finding of wrongdoing and, as indicated above, are not meant to punish but rather to protect.

The essence of due process is notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard. A full evidentiary hearing is not automatically required to satisfy constitutional due process. A hearing is not required in every conceivable case of government impairment of a private interest. It is also settled that the defendant does not have a statutory or constitutional right to confront his accuser prior to trial. Clearly the Legislature’s intent was not to punish the subject of the temporary order of protection, but rather to protect the victims of domestic violence and victims and witnesses of crimes and their families. The State has a legitimate and significant interest in doing so and the statutes in question are reasonably related to these lawful and proper objectives. Just as importantly, the procedures available to a defendant who is the subject of the temporary orders of protection issued pursuant to these statutes are more than adequate to protect against an erroneous temporary deprivation of a liberty or property interest.

The temporary order of protection is issued in coordination with the bail hearing held pursuant to CPL 530.10 wherein the defendant is present and represented by counsel. A defendant held on bail or remanded has a statutory right to review the legality of that bail and necessarily the issuance of the temporary order of protection which is a condition of that bail in a superior court pursuant to CPL 530.30. At such bail hearings, defendant has a right to present evidence and the court in its discretion can order an evidentiary hearing if one is required.

Victims of domestic violence should expect to be treated equally in the Supreme, Family or District Courts. Those who are the subject of the temporary order of protection should also expect equal protection of the laws in all three courts. The similarity in procedures afforded in these courts further supports the court’s finding of constitutionality of the statutes in question. Similarity in treatment of litigants in the different courts is also required in addressing the societal problem of domestic violence considering the concurrent jurisdiction of the courts.

Accordingly, the Court held that the, defendant’s motion for an evidentiary hearing to contest the continuance of the temporary order of protection based on the unconstitutionality of CPL 530.12 and 530.13 is denied. The statutes are constitutional as written.

The Legislature’s intent was not to punish the subject of the temporary order of protection, but rather to protect the victims of domestic violence and victims and witnesses of crimes and their families. Hence, a full evidentiary hearing is not required before the issuance of a temporary order of protection. There is a need of for the legal expertise of a Nassau Order of Protection Attorney and Nassau Domestic Violence Attorney in order to know how a victim of assault or violence can be protected. Call us at Stephen Bilkis and Associates for free consultation.

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