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Difference between Criminal and Family Orders of Protection

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Filing a petition in Family Court will not prevent you from also complaining to a District Attorney in a criminal court. To decide whether to go to Family Court, criminal court or both, you may want to think about the differences listed below:

Note: Be aware that sometimes the decision to use criminal court will be made without you. This can happen if the police respond to an incident and arrest the abuser.


Family Court Criminal Court
It can be easier to get a temporary (or emergency) order of protection than going through criminal court.

Criminal charges must be filed by the police or District Attorney.

The case is between you and the respondent.

The case is between the People of the State of New York and the defendant. The defendant is charged with crimes.

Requires a lower level of proof (“preponderance of the evidence”).

Requires a higher level of proof (“beyond a reasonable doubt”).

You must be present in court and participate.

The District Attorney may be able to handle the case without you if there is other evidence of the crime.

Records are private, but the courtrooms are open to the public.

Records and courtrooms are open to the public.

You can decide to stop the case by withdrawing your petition during the case.

You can’t stop the case if you decide you no longer want to continue. Only the District Attorney can withdraw the case. You can speak to the District Attorney, but the decision is not yours.

The case can result in a final order of protection that the respondent must follow.

The case can result in a final order of protection. The case can also result in criminal convictions and sometimes send the defendant to prison.

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