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Domestic Violence

What to do if you are the victim of domestic violence

The first thing to do is to call the State Police, the Sheriff's Office or the police in the city or town where the incident happened. When the police arrive, they will ask you to explain what happened. They will ask whether or not there were any witnesses, and they may ask to take photographs of any visible injuries. All of this information will be used later by the District Attorney's Office in order to prosecute the offender.

If you are hurt, go to the hospital. If you have called the police, they will assist you in getting to the hospital. Explain to hospital staff how you got injured.

If you need to leave your home and get to a safe place, you may ask the police for assistance. They can assist you by providing transportation or helping arrange transportation. You should take some clothing and important papers with you (birth certificate, social security card, etc.).

If you did not call the police at the time of the incident and want to report the incident at a later time, go to the police station in the town where the incident occurred and ask to file charges. You have one (1) year from the time of a violation, two (2) years from the time of a misdemeanor and five (5) years from the time of a felony to file charges. However, it is best to file charges as soon as possible after the incident.

We encourage you to contact any of the agencies in Dutchess County that offer assistance to victims. They can explain your rights and how to use these rights and help you find shelter and other necessities of immediate need. They may also be able to provide you with a court advocate.  A detailed list of contact information and resources can be found on our Victims' Resources and Services page.

The police will determine if a crime has been committed and whether or not an arrest will be made. When an arrest is made and a choice exists, the police will ask if you'd like to proceed in Criminal Court, Family Court or both courts.

In order to use Family Court, you must be related, married, formerly married or have a child in common and the offender must be charged with a family offense (Disorderly Conduct, Harassment in the 1st or 2nd Degree, Menacing in the 2nd or 3rd Degree, Reckless Endangerment in the 1st or 2nd Degree, Assault in the 2nd or 3rd Degree, Attempted Assault or Stalking). If these conditions do not apply, you must proceed in Criminal Court. For assistance in making this decision, ask the police officer or call the Battered Women's Hotline number  (845) 485-5550.


  • 845-486-2300
  • 845-486-2324
  • Dutchess County District Attorney
    236 Main Street
    Poughkeepsie, NY 12601


Orders of Protection (OOP)

Judges in both Criminal Court and Family Court can issue Orders of Protection. You can request a "full" order that requires the abuser to stay away from you completely or a "modified" order that allows the defendant to be with you, provided he or she doesn't strike, harm or harass you in any way. An Order of Protection may require the defendant to:

An Order of Protection is valid not only within the town or city in Dutchess County where issued, but throughout New York State and between states.

A Violation of an Order of Protection is a separate crime and can result in jail, probation or a fine. You can have an Order of Protection from Family Court and Criminal Court at the same time.

How to obtain an order of protection in:

Family Court
When there was an incident, whether or not there was an arrest, or the police were called, and you want an Order of Protection, go to Dutchess County Probation and ask to file a "Family Offense Petition" requesting an Order of Protection. The worker will ask you for information about the incident. It is important to be as specific as possible. It is helpful to know dates, times, and addresses of incidents. After filing the petition, you will be sent directly to Family Court to see a judge.  NOTE: Remember, to use Family Court you must be related, married, formerly married or have a child in common.

Criminal Court
You can only get an Order of Protection from Criminal Court when there has been an arrest and/or criminal charges have been filed. At the time of arraignment, the police officer can request an OOP. If an OOP is not requested at the time of arraignment, you can call the District Attorney's Domestic Violence Bureau and request assistance in getting an OOP.

What is the difference between Family Court and Criminal Court?

Family Court proceedings are civil, not criminal.  The purposes of a Family Court action are to try to stop the violence and obtain protection for you.

A Family Court judge can issue an Order of Protection. Family Court can also order visitation, child support, custody and restitution. Family Court can also order the offender to a batterer's intervention program, substance abuse treatment or counseling.

Criminal Court proceedings are for the purpose of prosecuting the offender and may result in a criminal conviction. When a case goes to Criminal Court, it is handled by the police and the District Attorney's Office.

A criminal action is not prosecuted by you. It is not necessary for you to be in court unless the court requires you to. The District Attorney prosecutes the case in the name of the People of the State of New York. You, as the victim, are a witness. You are not responsible for the outcome. If you are pressured by anyone to drop the charges, you should contact the police and/or the District Attorney's Office. It is a crime to intimidate a witness.

Although decisions regarding the prosecution of the case are made by the District Attorney's Office, your input is necessary. Someone from the District Attorney's Office will contact you and ask you how you'd like to see the case resolved. A criminal conviction doesn't mean the offender must be sent to jail or prison. There are many possible resolutions. A Criminal Court judge may order the offender to a batterer's intervention program, substance abuse treatment or counseling.

Jail will be considered, for example, when it is necessary to protect the victim from further harm. You may also obtain an Order of Protection from Criminal Court (see OOP Section). Although your input is considered, the judge will make the final decision on sentencing.  It is important to contact the District Attorney's Office if your address or phone number changes so that we will be able to get your input and keep you updated on the case.  To find out specific information about court dates, contact the court where the charges are filed.

If you have any questions about your case, you can get further information by contacting the District Attorney's Office between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Phone numbers for local courts can be found under City, Town and Village Courts