Essentially a Family Offense is an offense committed against a relative or other person with whom the perpetrator has an ‘intimate relationship’. This would include someone that you live with or someone that you have a child with. Family Offenses are heard in Family Court, however matters that constitute Family Offenses are also considered to be crimes and may be prosecuted in Criminal Court as well.
WHAT CONSTITUTES A FAMILY OFFENSE?
Family Offenses include disorderly conduct, harassment, sexual misconduct or abuse, stalking, criminal mischief, menacing, reckless endangerment, strangulation, and assault.
WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES?
Possible consequences of committing a Family Offense include an order of protection, probation, a suspended judgment, or being ordered to attend educational programs designed to address the offenses. A Family Offense is considered to be civil in nature, so incarceration is not a potential consequence.
CAN THE SAME MATTER BE PROSECUTED IN BOTH CRIMINAL COURT AND FAMILY COURT?
Yes. A family offense is also a crime and as such both Family Court and Criminal Court have the power to hear the matter either at different times or simultaneously.
DO I HAVE THE RIGHT TO COUNSEL?
Yes. You always have the right to Counsel in a legal proceeding. In Family Offense matters, both the Petitioner and the Respondent, will be represented by the Assigned Counsel Program, free of charge if either or both parties are unable to afford Counsel.