The State of New Jersey and the law enforcement authorities thereof treat disputes involving domestic violence with immense gravity. No matter your age, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, or otherwise, you may be a victim or an alleged offender of domestic violence and are subject to the investigative, hearing, and restoration process. Given the highly emotional nature of such situations, the expeditious process of protecting victims and prosecuting offenders is intimidating and demanding for all involved.
Notwithstanding your status as a principal party when allegations arise, it's imperative to understand how New Jersey defines, pursues, and addresses domestic violence allegations. Moreover, knowing you can retain professional assistance is essential when the complexities of legal provisions are daunting. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm team their empathy for personal dispute resolution with knowledge and proven experience fighting for clients in courtrooms across New Jersey.
New Jersey's Legal Definition of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence can happen in any relationship, whether the parties involved are married, living together, or dating. N.J.S.A. § 2C:25 classifies domestic violence as the occurrence of one or more of the following predicate acts detailed in the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA), including:
- Criminal coercion, mischief, restraint, sexual contact, and trespass
- False imprisonment
- Sexual assault
- Terroristic threats
Additionally, acts of domestic violence can include any other unlawful engagements involving the risk of death or serious physical injury to a person protected under the PDVA.
Who Can Be a Victim of Domestic Violence?
To be categorized as domestic violence, such acts are committed within the confines of a relationship between the offender and the victim. The PDVA explains that “protected persons” under the act are:
- At least 18 years of age
- Emancipated minors
- Those subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or any other person who is a present or former household member
The aforementioned must be substantiated to have been imperiled by domestic violence by one of the following actors:
- Someone with whom the victim has a child in common
- Someone with whom the victim anticipates having a child in common if one of the parties is pregnant
- Someone with whom the victim has had a dating relationship
Duties of New Jersey Law Enforcement Authorities
There are specific requirements that must be fulfilled to arrest someone at the scene of a domestic violence investigation. The end goal is to ensure the safety and well-being of all parties involved and uphold the law.
Under New Jersey law, a law enforcement officer must arrest an alleged suspect and complete a criminal complaint if a person claims to have been the victim of domestic violence. They may also conduct an arrest of the alleged if the officer has sufficient evidence to believe that such violence occurred if one of the following circumstances apply:
- An arrest warrant for the alleged suspect exists
- The alleged suspect has violated a previous domestic violence restraining order
- Officer has sufficient cause to believe a weapon was used in committing domestic violence
- The victim shows indications of injury
Sometimes, both parties in the relationship may show signs of physical injury and claim to be victims. In that case, the officer must distinguish which person is the aggressor through injury comparison, possible history of such violence, and other relevant means of determination.
Temporary Restraining Orders
A victim of domestic violence may file a complaint seeking protection from the alleged offender by contacting the Family Division of the New Jersey Superior Court or the county municipal court through the state or local police department. If a court determines that the victim—known in proceedings as the complainant—has their life, health, or well-being threatened, they will grant an ex parte domestic violence restraining order. An ex parte order is issued without the offender—known as the defendant—being present.
A temporary restraining order (TRO) will stand until the court schedules a hearing within ten days of the issuance of a TRO. Both parties in the matter will have the opportunity to present testimonies to the judge before a Final Restraining Order (FRO) may be issued.
In New Jersey, the defendant is not required to be notified prior to the issuance of an ex parte domestic violence restraining order and will be served by law enforcement officials. Therefore, without the ability to present their side of the situation, the alleged offender may be:
- Prohibited from returning to the location of the domestic violence
- Required to give exclusive possession of a residence to the plaintiff
- Barred from possessing firearms
- Mandated to compensate the plaintiff for losses
- Directed to provide temporary child custody to the plaintiff
- Obligated to undergo psychiatric evaluation or counseling
- Trespassed from the plaintiff's residence, workplace, or school
The New Jersey Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA) also permits courts to issue a civil protective order to shield a victim of sexual violence from the accused. A judge may issue an ex parte TRO under SASPA if they believe it's necessary to protect the safety and well-being of the plaintiff if they were subject to non-consensual sexual contact. A hearing for an FRO typically takes place within ten days.
How Can an Attorney Help?
Whether you're a victim or alleged offender in a domestic violence situation, emotions are running high. Retaining an attorney will provide you with the knowledge and support you need during times of duress.
A domestic violence offense conviction can carry severe consequences, including time in prison, limits on your freedom of movement, responsibilities as a parent, and rights as a property owner. Furthermore, if you're a plaintiff, you may believe you want the charges dropped to keep a family or relationship together. However, once an officer files a criminal complaint, it's out of your hands and will be addressed by the state.
Contact New Jersey Attorney Joseph D. Lento
If you need help filing a petition for a restraining order, preparing for court hearings, or assistance in defending yourself against unfounded charges, Joseph D. Lento has the experience necessary to provide aid and ensure you're treated in a just manner. He and his team at the Lento Law Firm have paramount practice in defending clients on both sides of the table.
When an instance of domestic violence arises, and you're involved, act with the seriousness the situation deserves and call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 for assistance or visit the confidential online consultation form. Your reputation depends on it.