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An Overview Of Domestic Violence Cases In New Jersey


Interviewer: Over the past 20 years or so, have you seen an increase in Domestic Violence cases over the years or has it kind of stayed up at the same?

James Abate: Yes. There’s been a tremendous explosion in the ways that domestic violence law is used and overused in New Jersey.  And just to give you an idea, and especially if you are now a NFL football player and I think that there’s one case which concerns us with the way that domestic violence law is used as a shield and a sword and I’ll explain to you what I mean by that.

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act Has Proliferated the Number of Domestic Violence Cases

All of this comes out at the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, which is NJSA2C:25-17.  And what it boils down to is that if you have had an act of domestic violence committed against you by someone who is a spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, boyfriend, someone who qualifies as a domestic relationship, you can go to the police or the court and they will, if you meet the standards, issue a temporary restraining order from that person having any contact with you.

The Violation of a Temporary Restraining Order is a Felony Punishable by up to 18 months Incarceration in a State Prison

When the temporary restraining order is issued, if that person has contact with you, they will be arrested and their violation of the order is a felony, punishable by up to 18 months in jail in the state prison.  And those contacts can be either the most minute contact, it can be someone who texted you, even if you give them permission to contact you and say “Could you call me?”, and then you call them, it’s going to be temporary restraining order in effect, and you can still be arrested.  What happens then is within about 10 days, you will be summoned to the Family Court and the superior courthouse.  And the judge will hold a hearing to determine if a final restraining order should be issued.

The Final Restraining Order is Subject to Two Requirements

The final restraining order, there’s a couple of things that are looked for, the first is “Is there a domestic relationship which qualifies under the act?”  The second is “Was a predicate act committed?” And that’s pretty simple.  It’s harassment, stalking, assault, there are a number of different charges that can qualify but it doesn’t have to be a bigger assault, it can just be “He pushed me”. The last part of the criteria is whether there is a history which indicates that permanent protection is required, and that’s really what it’s all about. There’s a lot of craftsmanship in how these complaints are created and how much of a history is put in there.  So, one act of domestic violence alone may not be enough to get you the permanent restraints.

A Lot of People Are Unaware that Violation of a Restraining Order Could Send Them to Criminal Court

You’re going to need to show that this is something where it’s likely that if the restraining order is not issued, that there may be a danger to your life.  The next thing that people need to realize is that this isn’t the only part of the process, there is a second step.  The predicate act which gives rise to you getting a restraining order also can give rise to criminal charges and those criminal charges can be misdemeanor charges in the Municipal Court, which is punishable by up to 6 months in jail, or it could rise to indictable felony level charges in the superior court.  So, a lot of people, when they show up for the family court hearing, they don’t know what they have to go to the criminal court as well and they end up in a lot of trouble over that.

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