We take family violence seriously in New Jersey. Whether you're the victim of an assault or defending yourself from domestic violence charges, you know this is a serious matter. You'll need legal guidance through the criminal justice system as a defendant. But as a victim of domestic violence, the process can also be a labyrinth. You'll need help navigating the various restraining and court orders that can help protect you and your family during this stressful time. In this article, we'll discuss simple assault charges and the court orders that can protect a victim of domestic violence after an incident of domestic violence.
Simple Assault in New Jersey
The police can choose from various charges after a domestic violence incident, depending on how serious the injuries are and whether the assailant used a weapon. Charges can range from simple assault to aggravated assault, depending on the seriousness of the offense. For simple assault, the police can use a reliable statement from a victim as probable cause for the arrest. The victim doesn't have to have visible injuries.
Under New Jersey law, a person is guilty of simple assault if the person:
- Attempts to cause or purposely, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or
- Negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or
- Attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
See N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-1(a) (2021).
Simple assault is typically a “disorderly persons offense” unless it results from a fight entered into by mutual consent. In that situation, it's a petty disorderly persons offense. A disorderly persons offense is the equivalent of a misdemeanor in other states and is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Even if the charge is downgraded to a petty disorderly persons offense, a conviction can result in up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Assault becomes aggravated assault, a more serious offense if someone:
- Attempts or causes serious bodily injury to another purposely or knowingly or, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, recklessly causes such injury
- Attempts to cause or purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon
- Recklessly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon
- Knowingly, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, points a firearm at or in the direction of another, whether or not the actor believes it to be loaded
- Commits a simple assault against specific protected individuals, including police, fireman, and EMTs
See N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-1(b) (2021).
As part of a criminal case involving domestic violence, the judge will often issue a “no contact” order as a condition of bail. While most judges will issue one automatically, the victim can also request that the court issue a no-contact order. The order will prevent a defendant from approaching or contacting the victim while the criminal case proceeds through the justice system. If the court finds the defendant guilty of simple assault, they may leave the order in place through jail or a probationary period.
New Jersey Restraining Orders
If the police don't arrest and charge a defendant for domestic violence, or if a court declines to issue a no-contact order as part of the case, the victim can still petition the court for a civil restraining order. The petitioner will apply for the restraining order in the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court in the county where the assault occurred or where the parties live.
To obtain a restraining order, the applicant will need to show:
- The parties have a domestic relationship
- An act of domestic violence occurred
- The order is needed urgently to prevent future acts of domestic violence
- Domestic Relationship: The parties have a domestic relationship if they are current or former spouses, intimate partners, have a dating relationship, have children together, share the same household, or are close family members.
- Domestic Violence: Under New Jersey law, domestic violence includes a long list of crimes, including assault.
- Urgent Need: The judge will need to find that a restraining order is necessary to prevent future domestic violence between the parties.
The judge will deny the order if the applicant can't prove these elements in a restraining order hearing. If the court issues a restraining order, it will remain in place permanently unless one or both parties ask the court to lift the order.
While a restraining order is a civil matter in New Jersey, it is considered criminal contempt of a court order if someone violates a restraining order. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9 (2019). A conviction can result in jail time. For a second restraining order violation, the defendant can face a mandatory 30-day sentence in jail. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30 (1994).
Hire an Experienced New Jersey Family Law Attorney
If you're facing domestic violence charges for simple assault or a petition for a restraining order against you, you urgently need skilled legal guidance. But if you're the victim of domestic violence, concerned about ensuring your safety and your family's safety, you also need help. An experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer well versed in both family matters and restraining order hearings can be your biggest help.
Attorney Joseph Lento and his skilled legal team at the Lento Law Firm have helped many New Jersey families through the criminal justice system and the restraining order process. Whether you need help with domestic violence charges, restraining orders, no contact orders, or ensuring that you and your family have the support you need, we can help. Call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online today.