I Am Not a Nuisance: Decriminalizing Domestic Violence Across New York’s Civil Housing & Criminal Justice Systems
Written By: Siya U. Hegde
This Article examines how the treatment of domestic violence in New York’s civil and criminal legal systems places survivors and alleged abusers at risk of homelessness—on the one hand, it has been underplayed as a ‘bothersome’ nuisance offense to landlords, while also serving as a basis for state-sanctioned evictions through the issuance of Orders of Protection. Section I incorporates client anecdotes to display how this issue has affected Bronx tenants during the pandemic, explaining theoretical re-framings of domestic violence and providing context on how domestic violence rates in New York City have affected the homelessness epidemic. Section II conducts a deeper dive into nuisance doctrine and the ways that New York tenants affected by domestic violence are entangled in civil judicial and administrative housing disputes. Section III discusses domestic violence prosecutions in criminal courts and the pitfalls that Orders of Protection present in curtailing alleged abusers’ housing rights. Section IV offers policy recommendations to combat the impacts of local nuisance laws and Orders of Protection on survivors and alleged abusers, further acknowledging the importance of transformative justice as an advocacy method to decriminalize domestic violence across the civil and criminal legal spectrum.