Quick Guide To New Jersey’s Domestic Violence Law

Brief History

New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act has kept up with the rest of the country. We no longer live in a world where the police respond to a scene of domestic violence in New Jersey, shrug their shoulders, and proceed to turn around and leave.

Decades ago, it was customary for the police (across the country) to arrive on a distress call and  discover that the parties involved in the domestic violence dispute were husband & wife The police officers were trained (back in the day) to stay for a few minutes until things cooled down and politely leave. The stories that followed were tragic.

(If you are in a relationship and believe you are a victim of Domestic Violence, please visit this link for more information.)


Soon after the police left, things escalated, got more and more violent, and death followed. Countless people (mostly women) would end up  brutally murdered in domestic violence settings. Therefore, the New Jersey legislature has done everything possible to prevent violence in the home, at work, at school, and wherever it rears its ugly head. That first 911 call to a domestic violence situation will inevitably result in at least one arrest.

Police in New Jersey have “Mandatory Arrest” orders when it comes to domestic violence (DV) situations. This means that if police are called to the scene of a DV incident, they MUST arrest and take into custody the domestic violence suspect and file the corresponding criminal complaint, IF the victim exhibits signs of injury. When police make an arrest in a domestic violence setting, the person arrested faces TWO cases.

The first case is criminal in nature. For example, a defendant will face either Simple Assault or Aggravated Assault depending on the victim’s injuries. New Jersey police are trained to observe the slightest injuries. In situations where the officer cannot readily observe any injuries, they must give serious weight to the victim’s statements about the injuries they sustained. The victim could complain about an internal injury that is not visible to the officer and the officer must accept the victim’s statement about their injuries.

In situations where both parties to the domestic violence incident are BOTH injured, the police must make a real-time decision by weighing the comparative extent of the injuries, the history of domestic violence between the parties, and other relevant factors such as which party may have consumed alcohol or other mind-altering substances.

A police officer also has “Discretionary Arrest” powers. This means that even if none of the victim’s injuries were visible and the victim denied ever being injured or in fear of injury, the police officer may still find “Probable Cause” to arrest the suspect. As you can see, New Jersey police officers have extremely broad authority under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act to effectuate an arrest and remove the suspect from the domestic violence situation.

Quite often, defendants in domestic violence situations find themselves charged with multiple charges such as Criminal Mischief, Terroristic Threats, Harassment, and oftentimes a Sex Offense. What started out as a routine argument for the defendant has now become a nightmare. The problem is that in trying to explain their version of the story, too many defendants make things worse for themselves. With every sentence they utter to clear their name, they dig a deeper hole for themselves.

Please be aware that once a suspect is arrested, he or she is immediately searched. Police often find drugs and drug paraphernalia when they search a suspect incident to arrest. It does not matter that the police were called to the scene on a domestic violence call. The resulting arrest and search has created additional problems for the defendant. In addition to everything else, our client now is facing serious drug charges. In New Jersey, these drug charges are called “Controlled Dangerous Substances”.

Again, don’t try to explain your way out of it. It usually won’t work. If anything, it hurts more than it helps you. Request an attorney and remain silent!

What Happens After A Domestic Violence Arrest?

Earlier we discussed how TWO case are born, or come out of, these domestic violence arrests. The second case that the defendant in a New Jersey domestic violence case faces is a Restraining Order case. These cases are heard in the Superior Court of the county where the arrest occurred.

Before the defendant has an opportunity to be heard or present his or her side of the case, the defendant will be Temporarily Restrained from doing many things. These court orders are initially called Temporary Restraining Orders or TROs. 

​In the overwhelming majority of cases, the defendant must:

  • leave the home where the victim lives (if they lived there together);
  • is not allowed to contact the victim (a No Contact Order is issued) this means no emails, texts, phone, postcards, nothing;
  • is not allowed to contact the victim through a third party (a mutual friend);
  • immediately stop all communication with the defendant’s own children (if defendant had children with the victim).

Will The Accused Be Allowed To Tell Their Story?

After a short period of time, the defendant will be afforded an opportunity to present his or her side of the case at a Final Restraining Order (FRO) hearing. In New Jersey, once a temporary restraining order becomes a final restraining order, the defendant’s world turns upside down.

Once a Superior Court judge enters a final restraining order against a defendant, that judge may also order:

  • that the defendant continue to pay the rent or mortgage of the domicile where defendant lived with victim;
  • immediately vacate the joint living quarters although defendant pays the rent or mortgage;
  • the defendant undergo a psychiatric evaluation (which defendant must pay for);
  • restitution to the victim for any monetary losses that he or she may have suffered;
  • that the defendant pay fines and/or penalties up to $500.00;
  • that the defendant’s home be searched and all firearms seized;
  • that the defendant’s firearms permit be revoked.

What Happens After The FRO Hearing?

Nine out of ten times, the Final Restraining Order Hearing will be resolved before the criminal charges are dealt with. Depending on whether the defendant is facing Indictable (felony) charges in New Jersey, or Disorderly Persons Offenses (misdemeanors) the criminal case could take anywhere from three month to a couple of years until it is resolved.

Since the victim in both the Final Restraining Order hearing is the same victim in the criminal matter, with the exception of drug charges, then the defendant will have to face the person a second time. New evidence may have surfaced and additional criminal charges may be added. This is a very complicated area of New Jersey law because it involves both the New Jersey Domestic Violence Prevention Act and Title 2C of the New Jersey Criminal code. 

​Don’t face these charges alone.

 

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