If you've been the victim of domestic violence or faced an arrest for domestic violence in New Jersey, you know this is a serious matter. Preventing family violence is something that the police and the legal system treat urgently in this state. That's why it's a good idea to seek legal guidance from a lawyer well versed in both family matters and criminal defense law to guide you through the process and protect your rights. This article discusses some of the most common questions our clients have about domestic violence arrests and their options going forward.
New Jersey Domestic Violence Arrests
During a call for a domestic violence incident, the police in New Jersey will follow specific procedures to determine whether they should arrest someone. If the police have probable cause to believe someone was the victim of domestic violence, they will arrest the alleged abuser, including if:
- Someone has a visible injury from domestic violence
- Someone has an active warrant for their arrest
- The police have probable cause to believe someone used a weapon in an incident of domestic violence
- The police have probable cause to believe that someone has a civil restraining order against them
If the police don't believe they have probable cause to arrest, the victim still has options. In New Jersey, they can also file a criminal complaint against the alleged abuser.
No Contact Order
“No-contact” orders, sometimes called stay away orders, are a type of restraining order issued by a judge in connection with a criminal court. As a victim in a domestic violence case, you may file a criminal complaint against the alleged abuser and request a “no-contact” order as part of the action. However, a judge will often automatically issue a no-contact order in a criminal domestic violence case as a condition of bail. A no-contact order can prevent an abuser from approaching or contacting you while the case is pending resolution in court. If the court finds the defendant guilty in a criminal domestic violence case, they may leave a no-contact order in place while the defendant is in jail. If the defendant violates a no-contact order, they can forfeit their bail and face additional charges for criminal contempt of court.
New Jersey Civil Restraining Orders
If the alleged abuser isn't arrested by the police or the court doesn't issue a no-contact order, you can apply for a civil restraining order. Under New Jersey's Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991, you can apply for a restraining order in the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court. A restraining order is an order from the court preventing an alleged abuser from approaching or contacting an alleged victim. You'll first apply for a temporary restraining order in an ex parte hearing before a judge. The court will then set a hearing for a final restraining order with both parties present. You should attend this hearing if you're defending yourself from a restraining order.
To obtain a restraining order, the parties must have a “domestic relationship,” an act of domestic violence must have occurred, and it must be urgently necessary to prevent future acts of violence.
- Domestic Relationship: In New Jersey, you and the other party have a domestic relationship if you are current or former spouses, dating, close family members, intimate partners, members of the same household, or have one or more children together.
- Act of Domestic Violence: There is no one specific “domestic violence” crime in New Jersey. Rather, acts of domestic violence include a long laundry list of specific crimes that include stalking, harassment, cyber-harassment, assault, rape, kidnapping, and more.
- Urgent Need: The judge must also believe that there's an urgent need for a restraining order to prevent future acts of domestic violence between the parties.
Unlike a no-contact order, a final restraining order will remain in place permanently unless one or both parties ask the court to modify or lift it.
While a restraining order can prevent one person from approaching or contacting another, it can also contain other provisions. A New Jersey restraining order can order that the defendant:
- Provide financial support
- Continue paying a mortgage, rent, car payment, or other financial obligations
- No longer be permitted to possess or purchase firearms
- No longer have child custody, visitation, or order that the defendant only has supervised visitation
- Attend mandatory counseling, anger management classes, or domestic violence classes
Violating a Restraining Order
While a restraining order is a civil rather than criminal matter, it is criminal contempt of court if you violate a restraining order. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. If the police have probable cause to believe you violated a restraining order, they will arrest you. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-31. If convicted of violating a restraining order, you could face jail time, and a second violation will result in a mandatory 30-day jail sentence. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30.
Hire an Experienced New Jersey Family Attorney
If you've been the victim of domestic violence or if you're defending yourself against domestic violence allegations, you need skilled legal guidance as soon as possible. An attorney well versed in family law matters, restraining orders, and criminal defense law can help you through this process and protect your rights along the way. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the experienced legal team at the Lento Law Firm can help. They've been helping New Jersey families through domestic violence cases and restraining orders for years. Their attorneys have experience prosecuting and defending criminal domestic violence cases, giving them unique insight into the legal process and the best way to help their clients. Find out how they can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 for a consultation today.