New Jersey Domestic Violence
The key component to any New Jersey domestic violence crime is the relationship between the alleged offender and victim. For example, if you have been accused of causing or attempting to cause bodily injury to a stranger, the offense may be considered a simple assault. If you have been accused of causing or attempting to cause bodily harm to your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, household member or any other person protected under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991, however, the offense may be considered an act of domestic violence. The state of New Jersey regards domestic violence as a serious crime against society and allegations of domestic violence are taken extremely seriously. Do not wait for charges to be filed, contact a New Jersey criminal defense attorney today.
New Jersey Domestic Violence Law
Every state has its own definition of domestic violence and the criminal code dictates which specific offenses qualify as acts of domestic violence in that particular state. In New Jersey, for instance, any of the following offenses can be considered domestic violence if perpetrated against a person who is protected under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991:
- Assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1)
- Homicide (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1 et seq.)
- Stalking (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10)
- Kidnapping (N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1)
- Sexual assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2)
- Robbery (N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1)
- False imprisonment (N.J.S.A. 2C:13-3)
- Terroristic threats (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3)
- Burglary (N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2)
- Harassment (N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4)
- Criminal trespass (N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3)
- Criminal mischief (N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3)
- Lewdness (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-4)
- Criminal sexual contact (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3)
- Criminal coercion (N.J.S.A. 2C:13-5)
- Criminal restraint (N.J.S.A. 2C:13-2)
- Cyber-harassment (N.J.S.A. 2C:33–4.1)
- Contempt of a domestic violence order (N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9b)
The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice further states that any other criminal offense that involves a risk of death or serious bodily injury to a person protected under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act can be charged as a domestic violence crime.
Who Does the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act Protect?
Differentiating between acts of domestic violence and other criminal acts in New Jersey means understanding exactly who is afforded protection under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991. According to the law, any person 18 years of age or older, or any emancipated minor, who has been subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or any other person who is a current or former household member is protected under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. The act also protects any person who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom he or she has a child in common (this includes an unborn child if the alleged offender or victim is pregnant) or a person with whom he or she has had a dating relationship.
Criminal Consequences for Domestic Violence in NJ
New Jersey Mandatory Arrest Law
New Jersey has a mandatory arrest law (N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-21), which states that law enforcement officers who respond to a domestic violence call must make an arrest and sign a criminal complaint when the victim of an alleged domestic violence act shows signs of injury, a warrant is in effect, there is probable cause to believe that the alleged offender used a weapon in the commission of a domestic violence act, or there is probable cause to believe that the alleged offender has violated a no-contact court order.
New Jersey Assault Penalties & Restraining Orders
Depending on the specific facts of your case, a domestic violence offense can lead to two separate legal proceedings: domestic violence criminal charges and a domestic violence restraining order. The criminal punishment imposed by the court for domestic violence depends on the circumstances surrounding the underlying offense. For instance, if you are facing charges for a low-level offense like simple assault or harassment, you could face up to six months in the county jail upon conviction, plus other legal consequences (i.e. probation, fines and/or mandatory anger management classes).
More serious domestic violence offenses, like aggravated assault, burglary, sexual assault and terroristic threats, can result in felony charges, in which case the penalties upon conviction would be significantly more severe. Felony domestic violence crimes in New Jersey are punishable by incarceration in the state prison for up to 18 months for fourth-degree crimes, between three and five years for third-degree crimes, between five and 10 years for second-degree crimes, and up to 20 years for first-degree crimes, which are considered the most egregious.
In addition to possibly serving time in jail and paying substantial criminal fines, individuals found guilty of committing an act of domestic violence in New Jersey may be required to pay a civil penalty of at least $50 but no more than $500, to be deposited in the Domestic Violence Victims’ Fund (N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-29.1). Domestic violence offenders may also be subject to a surcharge in the amount of $100, payable to the Treasurer of the State of New Jersey for use by the Department of Human Services to fund grants for domestic violence prevention, assessment and training (N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-29.4).
If you are accused of committing an act of domestic violence and the court grants a domestic violence restraining order against you, you could be barred from: having any contact or communication with the alleged victim (the petitioner), committing future acts of domestic violence, entering your shared residence, or possessing a firearm or weapons. The order may also grant temporary custody of your minor children to the petitioner and require you to pay temporary child support to the petitioner, as well as compensation for any medical expenses incurred as a result of the alleged abuse. If you are accused of knowingly violating the terms of the restraining order, you could face additional criminal charges for contempt in the fourth degree (N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9b).
Contact a New Jersey Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer
Facing criminal charges for a domestic violence offense like assault, stalking, harassment or sexual assault can be frightening and stressful, especially if the allegations are simply not true. A criminal conviction for domestic violence in New Jersey carries harsh criminal penalties that can follow you for the rest of your life. The state also maintains a Domestic Violence Central Registry with information on every person who has had a domestic violence restraining order entered against them or has been charged with a domestic violence-related crime or a violation of a domestic violence restraining order. If you are facing charges for a domestic violence offense in New Jersey, your reputation and your future could be at risk. Contact a skilled New Jersey domestic violence defense attorney today for qualified legal help.