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Domestic Violence in New Jersey


In New Jersey we have very strict domestic violence laws. If there are any signs of physical injuries, the police must arrest the abuser. Even without independent witnesses and no physical injuries, police may decide to arrest the abuser. Domestic violence is a crime and police must respond to all calls from a victim or from a bystander. The police are required to give the victim information about their rights and to help them. Among other things the police must write up a report any time they have been called to the scene of an act of domestic violence.

What exactly is the meaning of domestic violence? It is the occurrence of homicide, assault, terrorist threat, kidnapping, false imprisonment, sexual assault, lewdness, criminal trespass or mischief, harassment, or burglary upon any person who is 18 years old or over, an emancipated minor or any person who has been subject to domestic violence by a spouse, a former spouse, any other person who is a present or former household member, or a person with whom the victim has a child in common with.

In New Jersey, a domestic violence complaint can be filed at the family court in your county. After the complaint has been filed, the victim will be interviewed by a probation officer and a representative from the battered women’s program. They will explain the court process and advise the victim about what services are available. The complaint will then be processed and the case will be heard as soon as possible before a judge/domestic violence hearing officer. If the judge/domestic violence hearing officer feels that the complaint falls within the guidelines of domestic violence, the victim will be issued a Temporary Restraining Order or TRO.  After the victim receives the TRO, the case will be scheduled to return to court within 10 days for the final hearing.  It is, however, the victim’s responsibility to bring a copy of the TRO to the local police department. A TRO is issued by the court and the provisions contained in this type of court order are based upon the circumstances and vary from case to case.

At the final hearing the Judge/domestic violence hearing officer will hear testimony from both the victim and the abuser. At this time, it will be decided whether an act of domestic violence occurred and what relief should be granted to the victim. If there is evidence to believe the victim’s complaint, a Final Domestic Violence Restraining Order, or FRO,  will be issued to the victim. Once issued, a copy will be given to both the victim and the abuser. The victim must bring the order to the local police department so that they are aware of it. Provided that both parties obey the terms, there is no time limit on how long a FRO lasts.

If the two parties decide to get back together, the victim must return to court and withdraw the restraining order. The victim will be interview to make sure that it is not a forced withdraw. The victim will then go to court and explain their decision to the judge. The court can dismiss the complaint if satisfied that it is being withdrawn without fear or threats from the abuser. The victim is responsible to bring a copy of the dismissal order to their local police department.

If the restraining order is violated, the victim is advised to go to the local police department or municipal court and sign a criminal “Contempt of a Restraining Order” complaint. The complaint will state how the order was violated, then go to the police department so the abuser can be arrested. This case then goes to family court and the judge, after hearing testimony from both parties, will decide guilt or innocence and order the appropriate sentence. The judge may impose fines against the imposer.

Statutes for each of the offenses listed under the Domestic violence law are as follows:

Homicide:  N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1
Assault N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1
Terrorist threats N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3
Kidnapping N.J.S.A 2C:13-1
Criminal restraint N.J.S.A. 2C:12-2
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:14-4
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

Who is protected by the Domestic Violence Act?

Anyone who is 18 years of age or older
An emancipated minor
A person who has been subjected to domestic violence by:

  1. A spouse
  2. A former spouse
  3. A present or former household member
  4. Regardless of age, has been subjected to domestic violence by a person
    1. With whom the victim has a child in common with
    2. Anticipates have a child with, one party is pregnant
    3. A person who the victim has had a dating relationship with

Any person who has been found guilty of committing an act of violence shall be ordered to pay a civil penalty of at least $50, but not to exceed $500. The court shall take into consideration the nature and degree of injury suffered by the victim. The court may wave the penalty in cases of extreme hardship. All monies collected shall be forwarded to the Domestic Violence Victims Fund established pursuant to section 3 of P.L.2001, c.195 (C.30:14-15).

As a victim you don’t have to go through this alone. The Offices of James A. Abate are knowledgeable in these types of cases, and will fight to get our clients a sense of security and peace of mind.  If you’ve been accused of committing an act of domestic violence, we can also help find the truth of the matter and help you through the court process.

If you have been accused of an act of domestic violence, remember that once you have been arrested, it stays on your record whether you can convince the charges to be dropped or not. Once the matter has been resolved, and at least 5 years have gone by, you are eligible to have your record expunged. A record can make it hard to get a job, loan or other possibilities that otherwise would be open.

Get your questions answered – call me for your free, 20 min phone consultation (908) 210-9755