New Jersey has enforced very strict domestic violence laws with a goal of providing protections for victims of abuse. Because this crime is so looked down upon in society, some people have discovered that a mere arrest for domestic violence has drastically changed their lives. Accusations can lead to a ruined reputation, a suspension from your job, or may damage relationships between peers and loved ones. You can only imagine how detrimental an actual conviction for this crime can be.
While there are abusers who harm innocent people, there are also people who have been wrongly accused - and both of these parties equally deserve justice. If you live in New Jersey and have been accused of domestic violence, it's imperative you seek legal representation. Domestic violence cases, in particular, require the experience and skill a criminal defense attorney.
At the Lento Law Firm, we are committed to fighting for our clients. Our attorney, Joseph D. Lento will be available to listen to your concerns, answer your questions and provide you with options for your case.
It's important you understand the gravity of your charges and the penalties associated with them. So, here's an overview of the domestic violence laws in New Jersey.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence in New Jersey?
According to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991, “domestic violence” is an umbrella term for the commission of one or more crimes against a person who falls under the state's definition of a domestic violence victim. These crimes include:
- Terroristic threats
- Criminal restraint
- Sexual assault
- Criminal trespass
- Criminal mischief
- Criminal sexual contact
- False imprisonment
Ultimately, in New Jersey, a prosecutor has the burden of proving that a person committed one of these crimes against a person who falls under the definition of a domestic violence victim.
Domestic Violence Victims
A criminal act only qualifies as domestic violence if the defendant and alleged victim have a specific relationship. Domestic violence does not always involve spouses. People who have an intimate or close relationship may be subject to domestic violence. Usually, if the alleged victim is a family or household member and is over the age of 18, one of the crimes mentioned above can be considered domestic violence. A family or household member can be:
- A spouse or a former spouse
- Someone you live with or someone you formerly lived with
- A person you are dating or have dated
- A person you have a child with
Domestic Violence and Protective Orders
When an alleged victim contacts law enforcement in a matter concerning domestic violence, the first order of business is to have a temporary protective order issued. At this point, a defendant has been arrested and the order has most likely immediately been served.
A protective order is a court order that prohibits a person from doing particular acts to the alleged victim. A temporary one is ordered for a duration of time that will eventually elapse. For example, you may not be able to contact the alleged victim until the trial ends. If you're at the tail end of a temporary protective order, it's important that you hire an attorney that will not only dispute the issuance of a final protective order but will also fight your initial domestic violence charges.
If a temporary order turns into a final order, then the terms that were once imposed temporarily won't ever expire. A final order can contain provisions that:
- Prohibit the defendant from subjecting a victim to domestic violence
- Prevent the defendant from possessing a firearm
- Requires the defendant to pay a reimbursement fee to the victim for damages suffered due to the act of domestic violence
- Give the victim possession of the residence or household and possibly require the defendant to continue to pay their part of the mortgage or rent
- Prevent the defendant from making any communications with the defendant and their peers
If you are a party to a protective order and are accused of violating a protective order, you can be charged with either a disorderly persons offense or a fourth-degree crime. The severity of the charges against you will depend on the circumstances of your case.
If the actions that caused you to violate the order constitute an indictable crime, your contempt charge will be classified as a crime of the fourth degree. A fourth degree crime warrants penalties of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
If your violating act constitutes a petty disorderly persons offenses, like harassment, your contempt charge will be classified as a disorderly persons offense. A disorderly persons offense carries penalties of up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Penalties for Domestic Violence in New Jersey
The penalties for domestic violence in New Jersey depend on the underlying crime. Indictable crimes, also known as felonies, are more severe. If the underlying crime is a fourth-degree crime, the domestic violence charge will carry penalties of up to 18 months of imprisonment. If the underlying crime is graded as a third-degree crime, it's punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison. An underlying offense that is graded as a first-degree crime will expose defendants to up to 20 years in a New Jersey prison.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
It's undeniable that domestic violence is a serious crime in the state of New Jersey. A conviction of this crime can land you behind bars, and severely restrict your lifestyle once your time has been served. Not to mention the damage a conviction can have on your professional and personal life. To avoid a conviction and the legal and collateral ramifications that come with one, you need the help of a seasoned criminal defense attorney.
If you're looking for quality legal representation, the Lento Law Firm is the ideal firm for you. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience and credentials to defend and counsel people who've acquired domestic violence charges. He will explain your pending charges, build a solid defense and work towards getting your charges reduced or dropped. For more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact the Lento Law Firm either online or by phone at 888-535-3686.