Domestic violence spans all socioeconomic backgrounds, all ethnicities and affects all ages, from young to senior citizen. The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act provides the strongest protections possible to victims with equally harsh penalties to the offending defendants. The courts and the police are to avail themselves to victims of domestic violence 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
The Prevention of Domestic Act of 1991, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 – 35 is designed to provide the victims of domestic violence with protection from abuse from a spouse, former spouse, current or former household member, person the victim has had or anticipates having a child in common, or person with who the victim has or had a dating relationship.
A victim of domestic violence is a person protected by the Act who shall be over the age of 18 or is an emancipated minor. An emancipated minor is a person who is under 18 years of age but has been married, has entered the military service, has a child or is pregnant or has been previously been declared emancipated by a a court or agency.
Per N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17, et. seq., “domestic violence” means the occurrence of one of more of the following acts inflicted upon a person deemed to be protected by the Act by an adult or emancipated minor:
- Homicide (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1 et. seq.)
- Assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1)
- Terroristic Threats (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3)
- Kidnapping (N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1)
- Criminal Restraint (N.J.S.A. 2C:13-2)
- False Imprisonment (N.J.S.A. 2C:13-3)
- Sexual Assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2)
- Criminal Sexual Contact (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3)
- Lewdness (N.J.S.A. 2C:14)
- Criminal Mischief (N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3)
- Burglary (N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2)
- Criminal Trespass (N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3)
- Harassment (N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4)
- Stalking (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10)
- Criminal Coercion (N.J.S.A. 2C:13-5)
- Robbery (N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1)
- Contempt of a Domestic Violence Order (N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9b)
Upon contacting the police the first step in a matter involving domestic violence is to have a temporary restraining order issued. If you have had a Temporary Restraining Order issued against you then it is likely you have been served with it, arrested and bail has been set. At this point it is very important that you hire a lawyer as not only will you be disputing the ultimate issuance of a Final Restraining Order but you will also be fighting the charges that underlie the issuance of the Temporary Restraining Order.
A Final Restraining Order sets forth restraints that will permanently prevent you from having contact with the victim of domestic violence.
The Restraining can contain provisions that:
- Prevent the defendant from subjecting the victim to domestic violence;
- Restrain defendant from making communications likely to cause annoyance or alarm to the victim;
- Restrain the defendant from entering the residence, property, school, or place of employment of the victim or of other family or household members of the victim;
- Allow the defendant to enter the premises to obtain clothing and other personal property with a police chaperone;
- Grant the victim possession of the residence or household regardless of how the residence is owned or leased and possibly require the defendant to pay the mortgage or rent;
- An order granting monetary relief to the victim or other dependents;
- Provide for visitation (perhaps supervised at specific locations) and therefore allowing the plaintiff/victim custody of any children of the relationship - there is a presumption that the best interests of the children will lie with the non-abusive parent;
- Require the defendant to pay reimbursement to the the victim for damages suffered from the act of domestic violence;
- Allow both parties to live together only at the request of the victim; and
- Prohibit the defendant from possession all fireman’s and weapons.
You have to understand that the restraints can include locations such as restaurants or office buildings. If you were residing with the victim then you will be escorted to the residence at the convenience of the police department to remove personal items and clothing. You will be obligated to be constantly aware if the victim is in your vicinity. If the victim is near you and you accidentally, seemingly innocently have contact, you may violate the Restraining Order which will have significant penalties including mandatory jail time if it is a second offense.
A person found guilty of domestic violence will face the following penalties: a mandatory civic penalty between $50 and $500 and a $100 surcharge. In addition you will be obligated to pay any other fines or penalties related to the underlying offense which can vary from a petty orderly persons offense such as harassment to a first degree crime such as homicide. These penalties offenses include fines, surcharges and assessments, possible probation with conditions such as community service, drug and alcohol evaluations and recommendations, and jail time.
Violations of a Temporary or Final Restraining are considered contempt of a court order and an arrest warrant will be issued based on the contempt. This is a very serious charge since a second violation of contempt of a Temporary or Final Restraining Order will result in a minimum jail sentence of 30 days.
There are different ways a person can violate a Restraining Order, one way is to commit a new act of domestic violence which is either an indictable offense or a disorderly persons offense. In this instance the contempt will be be deemed a fourth degree offense and the contempt must be heard in the Criminal Part of the Superior Court. The penalties for a fourth degree crime include up to 18 months in jail and up to a $10,000 fine, the $75 Safe Neighborhoods Service Fund assessment and $50 Violent Crimes Compensation Board assessment. Probation may also be ordered in conjunction with anger management classes or drug and alcohol counseling.
In the event the violation of the Restraining Order is either a petty disorderly persons offense or perhaps there is no underlying offense then the contempt will be deemed a disorderly persons offense. A disorderly persons offense will be heard in Family Court with the Family Court judge acting as a municipal court judge. The penalties for a disorderly persons offense include up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1000 in addition to the Safe Neighborhoods assessment and Violent Crimes assessment noted above. Probation along with the conditions described above for a fourth degree crime can also be ordered.
Domestic violence and the consequences of a Restraining Orders are very serious matters. It is a complicated area of the law fraught with the emotions involved between family members, dating relationships and roommates. This is one area of the law where a harassment charge can result in a mandatory minimum 30 days in jail if you are found guilty of violating a Restraining Order for the second time. It is not difficult to appreciate that 30 days or more in jail will throw a wrench in your life and will impact your job and other relationships. I️ urge you to consult a lawyer if you are facing a, Temporary Restraining Order Final Restraining Order or a violation of a Restraining Order. I️ have experience in the area of Domestic Violence and would look forward to the opportunity to work with you.