Domestic violence is one of the worst things you can experience as a person. In 2019, the number of reported New Jersey domestic violence cases reached 59,645. Anyone, regardless of gender or age, can be a victim of domestic abuse. It can result in physical injury and psychological trauma. It is also a serious legal issue and timely action must be taken to protect your legal rights.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you should reach out to a New Jersey domestic violence lawyer to understand your rights.
On the other end, if you have been accused of domestic violence crimes, you should also look for New Jersey domestic violence attorneys to understand your next step.
This article will help you understand what constitutes domestic violence and the related legal options available.
Understanding Domestic Violence Offenses in New Jersey: What happens in domestic violence cases in NJ?
There is a New Jersey domestic violence act, which is the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA). The act defines domestic violence as the occurrence of one or more of the following criminal offenses having been committed:
- Assault, Terroristic threats, Stalking;
- Kidnapping, Criminal restraint, False imprisonment, Criminal coercion;
- Sexual assault, Criminal sexual contact, Lewdness;
- Criminal mischief, Burglary, Criminal trespass;
- Contempt, Harassment, Cyber-Harassment
As the victim, lawyers should be consulted to determine whether the abuse falls within any of these categories.
Is verbal abuse a crime in NJ?
Verbal abuse, and emotional abuse, can fall under harassment or assault. It depends on the severity and other potential factors.
Who can file a domestic violence complaint in New Jersey?
- Married, separated, or divorced partner;
- A household member or family member, present or past;
- A person in a dating relationship, including an intimate partner, present or past; and
- A person having or anticipating a child together
The PDVA also defines the accused to be at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor.
The PDVA protects individuals who have been in the following relationships with the accused:
If you are an individual protected under the PDVA and have experienced domestic abuse, you can file a domestic violence complaint at the Domestic Violence Unit of the Superior Court/Family Division in the County wherein you reside any day of the week. Alternatively, the complaint can be filed at your local police department.
When the complaint is filed, you can request a restraining order. The law also allows you to file a criminal complaint if you wish to. If there are signs of personal injury, New Jersey law requires the police officer to sign a corresponding criminal complaint.
The police can also make arrests if they have probable cause to believe that the complaint is legitimate. They will have to read you your Miranda rights. You are entitled to criminal defense lawyers or any New Jersey domestic violence lawyers at any stage in the process.
The legal process for domestic violence
There are two types of restraining orders:
- A temporary restraining order (TRO)
- A final restraining order (FRO)
After a domestic violence complaint is filed, the victim will be interviewed by a New Jersey Superior Court family division staff member and the victim will then appear before a Judge at a hearing. The TRO hearing is attended only by the victim. A domestic violence officer or a judge will decide whether a TRO should be granted. If a TRO is granted, the victim will return within ten days for a final FRO hearing.
During the FRO hearing, both the victim and the accused will be in attendance. Both parties can retain legal representation for the hearing. A judge will hear testimony from both sides and decide whether a FRO should be issued.
If the FRO is issued, the judge can decide on the details of the restraining order. The accused may be prohibited from entering the victim’s residence or having any communication or contact with the victim.
Enforcement of restraining orders
The FRO will be divided into two parts. The first part contains the general restrains against contact. If this first part is breached, the victim must go to a police station and sign criminal charges. The second part contains financial and parenting-related orders, such as child custody, child support, and any other related legal matter. If this second part is breached, the victim must enforce it through the New Jersey family court.
A restraining order does not expire in New Jersey. However, it can be modified or dismissed by the victim if he or she appears before a judge at the Family Division of the New Jersey Court.
How much time can you get for domestic violence in New Jersey?
If the victim files domestic violence charges against the accused, or a criminal complaint is signed by a police officer, a court battle can be expected. Both parties will have to seek experienced domestic violence attorneys to represent their own interests. Domestic violence cases are complicated due to the different underlying laws and require appropriate legal services to be provided by New Jersey attorneys.
Those who break a restraining order can be subjected to appropriate jail time.
Those facing domestic violence charges will have their criminal record examined as part of sentencing considerations. If the charge brought against the accused is a simple assault or harassment, the law provides for a jail time of up to six months as decided by a municipal court judge. Anger management classes may also be ordered.
Felony domestic violence charges can have different punishments depending on the severity of charges brought
- Fourth degree: up to 18 months of imprisonment
- Third degree: between 3 to 5 years of imprisonment
- Second degree: between 5 to 10 years of imprisonment
- First degree: up to 20 years of imprisonment
Getting a felony charge can also have long-term implications for the defendant. As a felon, a range of rights will be taken away, including the right to buy firearms and the right to vote. Credit scores will also be affected. This is justified as domestic violence is a serious offense.
Defending against false accusations
While all accusations of domestic violence are taken seriously, there are unfortunate cases where the accusation is unfounded. In New Jersey, the falsely accused should contact an experienced domestic violence attorney to defend the charges.
Certain details have to be verified before the charge can be established. Some of them include:
- Are there witnesses, such as other family members or any former household member?
- Is there evidence of abuse, such as visible physical injuries?
- Is the allegation consistent?
- Are there prior cases or related incidents?
In New Jersey, the judge will not be partial against either party based on their gender.
How do I choose a domestic violence lawyer?
For victims and defendants of a domestic violence case, it is essential to obtain an experienced New Jersey domestic violence attorney.
There are many Jersey domestic violence lawyers out there. When interviewing domestic violence lawyers in New Jersey, you may want to think about the following:
- Consider the experience level of the lawyer. Does the lawyer has substantial criminal defense experience?
- Try to imagine what the attorney-client relationship will be like. Do you feel comfortable and that the lawyer is honest when you are speaking to him/her? Your legal representation will work best if you can be truthful about facts and events.
- What are the costs and payment options? Will you be able to afford the lawyer?
You will have to cooperate with your lawyer in order to mount a good criminal defense or form a viable claim in a domestic violence case.
As the defendant, what rights can attorneys provide for me?
If you are the defendant in a domestic violence case, attorneys can work to acquit you if you are indeed innocent. At the very least, attorneys can persuade the prosecutor and the judge to reduce your judge if it is merited.
In restraining orders, attorneys can attempt to work out a reasonable child visiting schedule if there are children involved.
As the plaintiff, what rights can attorneys get for me?
If you are the plaintiff, you can also look to file a divorce if you wish to. Relevant financial arrangements or child support can be set out to ensure your financial security. Any child custody arrangements can also be made later on.
Contact our office and speak to an attorney today.
We at Villani Deluca provide a range of services at our law offices. Every lawyer is well-versed in New Jersey law and can meet your legal needs. Speak to our attorneys today and we will help you the best we can.