Several recent New Jersey bids to combat domestic violence are working their way through the state legislature—with varying degrees of speed—speaking to just how important the issue has become for state residents and lawmakers. Two of the newest laws currently under consideration have their roots in a high-profile case that gripped New Jersey and may result in a major change in how domestic violence can be researched and traced in the state.
The latest measures, two new proposals in the New Jersey Senate and Assembly, may radically change the landscape of protections for victims—and perpetrators—of domestic violence. With versions in the NJ Senate (S3712) and Assembly (A5321), the proposed laws would establish a public, searchable domestic violence registry for New Jersey and require law enforcement to reference existing records every time they make an arrest. This measure pulls domestic violence into the conversation about any legal violation, flagging people who have already been found guilty of threatening, intimidating, or injuring their victim. This proposed New Jersey state registry would also include flags for people who have violated restraining orders.
Background on the Bill
The bill has deep roots in a case familiar to most New Jersey residents. Named jointly “Stephanie's Law,” the two newly introduced bills reference Stephanie Nicole Parze, a domestic violence victim whose story gripped the New Jersey public during the late fall of 2019. Stefanie disappeared, prompting a search that lasted for months and ended in tragedy. Only after her murderer committed suicide did Stephanie's family discover that there were multiple domestic violence charges against her boyfriend. The case left a lasting mark on the public consciousness in New Jersey, and lawmakers have sought ways to close loopholes and empower friends and family to play a greater role in discovering and even preventing the threat of domestic violence.
Potential Impact of New Legislation
The two new proposed laws seek to automatically trigger database searches and pull domestic violence into the conversation about any crime. That could empower victims to reach out for help for offenses that may not seem directly related to abuse, including acts of anger or violence that aren't directed at them. That could also include a wide array of domestic violence crimes like assault, false imprisonment, rape, and stalking. The proposed laws take aim at the lack of information available about people who have had domestic violence charges filed against them.
The bills would back the creation of a publicly-accessible domestic violence registry. One also “requires a law enforcement officer to search State's domestic violence registries when conducting [the] arrest.”
But the bills, if passed, could potentially impact those who are wrongly accused and convicted, or even those who were found guilty years ago. It casts all former convicts in a light of suspicion that could impact their lives indefinitely. And with no nationwide registries for people convicted of domestic violence, the question of whether state-led initiatives really move the needle on a very real issue.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Family Law team have helped many New Jersey residents obtain restraining orders to protect themselves against individuals who have harmed them or threatened to harm them. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.