In New Jersey, domestic violence is taken very seriously. If the police arrive at your house and the accuser shows any signs of injury, then the police are required to arrest the suspect. In certain cases, such as a violation of a restraining order or that a weapon was involved, the suspect may be arrested even if the accuser shows no signs of injury. The police will then ask the victim if they want to file a domestic violence charge, which will usually come with a temporary restraining order against the suspect, a criminal complaint alleging the suspect committed a criminal act, or both charges. Things can happen very quickly in a domestic violence case. That’s why you want experienced NJ domestic violence lawyers who know how the prosecution thinks and can keep you informed about all aspects of your case.
What Is Considered Domestic Violence in New Jersey?
Domestic violence covers both a wide range of crimes and situations. Victims of domestic violence are protected under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) of 1990. A victim of domestic violence can be any person who is 18 years of age or older or is an emancipated minor. Note that while most domestic violence victims are women, men can also be victims. The following people can be charged for domestic violence, based on their relationship to the victim:
- Former spouse
- Any current or former boyfriend or girlfriend
- Any present or former member of the victim’s household
- Any parent of the victim’s children or expected child
Note that an unemancipated minor who commits an act of domestic violence cannot be prosecuted as a domestic violence defendant but can be prosecuted under the juvenile delinquency laws. Elderly and disabled adults and children can also be victims of domestic violence but New Jersey has special laws governing these cases.
Fourteen specific criminal charges are included under the domestic violence laws of New Jersey:
- Assault (includes Aggravated Assault)
- Sexual Assault
- Criminal Sexual Contact
- Terroristic Threats
- Criminal Mischief
- False Imprisonment
- Criminal Restraint
- Criminal Trespassing
These are serious charges that will require expert legal counsel to defend against.
Penalties in Domestic Violence Cases
The penalties for being convicted of domestic violence vary greatly, depending on a number of factors. Being accused of sexual assault or kidnapping comes with much harsher potential penalties than stalking or harassment, though all of the above listed crimes come with the possibility of hefty fines and imprisonment. Another factor is whether you have a history of domestic abuse or have been convicted of prior offenses. Also, violating a restraining order can incur separate penalties in addition to the violation itself.
A conviction also carries a permanent criminal record with it. This record will be publicly available information that can impact you life in many ways, such as making it more difficult to get a job, find a home or rent an apartment. Other penalties involve seizure of firearms and loss of ability to legally own them, court ordered counseling sessions and additional civil fines and surcharges.
When someone is charged with a domestic violence crime, a special procedure is engaged that allows the victim to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO). A TRO carries various conditions that prohibit the accused from the following:
- Entering the residence, workplace or school of the victim.
- Harassing or stalking family and friends of the protected person.
- Contact with animals owned by either party or a minor residing at the household.
- Being within a certain distance of the victim.
- Calling, texting or otherwise contacting the protected person.
- Having contact with other relevant individuals.
After a TRO is issued and the defendant is served, a trial will happen to determine if the TRO should become a final restraining order (FRO). This is a permanent order set forth by the court prohibiting the defendant from contact and other conditions under penalty of arrest if the accused violates the FRO at some point in the future.
If you violate a TRO and FRO, a New Jersey Criminal Complaint for “Contempt of Court” will be filed against you. This is considered a criminal charge and has the following penalties:
- Contempt of a Court Order in the Fourth Degree
- Fines of up to $10,000
- Up to 18 in prison
- A criminal record
This will likely also violate any bail conditions that had previously been set. Restraining orders can have loose evidence requirements and this vagueness, if not defended properly, can lead to the individual’s liberties being swiftly stripped away. A restraining order will severely impact your life, therefore you will want the best legal defense to keep a TRO from becoming permanent.
Contact Experienced Domestic Violence Lawyers in Monmouth County NJ
The lawyers at Schneider Freiberger P.C. have been defending against New Jersey domestic violence charges for over 40 years. With experience in both family law and criminal law, we can help you understand your rights and options and build a solid defense case to help you navigate these serious charges. Contact us today for a free consultation. We serve clients in Monmouth, Ocean, and Middlesex County NJ.