If you've been the victim of domestic violence, or if you're defending yourself from allegations of domestic violence, you know that navigating the New Jersey criminal justice system is stressful. What the police document in a domestic violence offense report will affect the outcome of your case and can affect whether you can obtain a restraining order or no-contact order.
Domestic Violence Calls in New Jersey
Every police department in New Jersey has a set of policies for handling domestic violence calls, guided by state policies. When responding to a domestic violence call, the police must follow specific procedures during the call and when filling out domestic violence offense reports. The police must:
- Respond to domestic violence calls quickly
- Investigate any allegations of domestic violence thoroughly
- Make sure the victim is safe.
- Let the victim know about their rights under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act
- Give the victim a Notice of Rights informing them about available local social services
- Inform the victim about the availability of temporary and final restraining orders and how to obtain one
- Give the victim information about how to file a Criminal Complaint and a Temporary Restraining Order
At a domestic violence call, the responding police officers must arrest the assailant and sign a criminal complaint if:
- There are signs of an injury
- There is a warrant in effect
- One party violates a no-contact order
- They have probable cause to believe one party used a weapon
The police have the discretion to make an arrest if they have probable cause to believe an act of domestic violence occurred, even if the criteria for a mandatory arrest don't apply. If the officer doesn't have probable cause, they will inform the victim how to file their own criminal complaint. If the victim signs a criminal complaint, the police will arrest the assailant. The police will document all this information in the domestic violence offense report.
If both parties involved in a domestic incident have injuries, the police will try to determine who the assailant is. They'll consider:
- Each person's injuries
- Whether the parties have a history of domestic violence
- Whether either person fears physical harm
- If one person was acting in self-defense
- Any other factors that might be relevant
If the police arrest one party or both, they must indicate why in their domestic violence offense report.
Domestic Violence Reporting
When the police respond to a domestic violence call, the police must also complete a report. This report will go to the municipal court, the New Jersey State Police, and the Department of Law and Public Safety. The report will have detailed information about the police call, the domestic violence incident, and the alleged victim and assailant, including:
Restraining Orders After the Arrest
After an arrest for domestic violence, the victim may seek a no-contact order as part of the criminal complaint or a restraining order through the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court in their county.
No Contact Order
In many cases, if the assailant in a domestic violence incident faces charges, the court will issue a “no contact” order as a bail condition. The no-contact order will prevent the defendant from contacting or approaching the victim while the case progresses through the criminal justice system. In domestic violence cases, the court will often issue a no-contact order automatically, but the victim can also request one. If the defendant violates a no-contact order, they can face criminal contempt charges and additional jail time.
In determining whether to issue a no-contact order, the judge will consider:
- The severity of the incident
- The severity of any injuries
- The relationship of the parties
- Whether a no-contact order is needed to ensure the victim's safety
In making this determination, the court will often review the charges and the police report, noting the details above.
If you later need to file a restraining order to prevent your assailant from approaching or contacting you, the police report and any relevant evidence will be part of your application. You can file a report if you have a domestic relationship with your assailant, including:
- You have a current or former dating or intimate relationship
- You have one or more children together
- You live in the same household
- You are current or former spouses
- You are close family members like parents, children, or siblings
In the application for the restraining order, you'll need to document one or more acts of domestic violence. If you have a domestic violence offense report, you can use this as part of your application.
First, you'll need to apply for a temporary restraining order and have an ex parte hearing with a judge. The defendant won't have the right to attend this hearing. Next, the judge will set a hearing for a final restraining order which both parties will attend. At the hearing, the judge will decide whether to issue a final, permanent restraining order considering the evidence provided by the parties, including the police report and any charges against the defendant.
While a restraining order is a civil complaint rather than a criminal matter like a no-contact order, there are still serious consequences for violating the order. Violating a restraining order is criminal contempt of court and can result in jail time.
Hire an Experienced New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer
Whether you're the victim of domestic violence or facing domestic violence charges in New Jersey, you need an experienced domestic violence lawyer to help you through the process. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the experienced team at the Lento Law Firm have helped many New Jersey families navigate domestic violence charges, and they can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm online or call them at (888) 535-3686 to set up a consultation.