Domestic violence is a serious crime in New Jersey. Law enforcement in Ocean County, especially, has become extremely aggressive in pursuing and prosecuting those accused of committing this crime.
This is a good thing when the defendant is guilty. After all, there are abusers who harm innocent people and deserve every bit of the consequences they receive. But it's important that the falsely accused isn't forgotten in these situations.
Merely being accused of domestic violence creates an array of issues for defendants, regardless of whether they are truly innocent or guilty. And because domestic violence is incredibly stigmatized in society, these charges have the potential to impact nearly every aspect of a defendant's life before they ever step foot in a courtroom. A charge for domestic violence has been known to impact employment, higher education, child support orders, and housing situations. The repercussions of a conviction are even more devastating.
If you live in Ocean County and have been arrested for domestic violence, your main priority should be to seek legal counsel. You're going to need the help of an attorney who knows the ins and outs of New Jersey law and understands the system. It's also important that you understand what you're up against. This means truly getting a grasp on the gravity of domestic violence charges and the penalties associated with them.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence in New Jersey?
According to New Jersey statutes, domestic violence is the actual or threatened physical, sexual, emotional, or economic abuse of an individual by someone with whom they have or had an intimate relationship.
In order for a relationship to be deemed “intimate” by law, it must be characterized by the following: marriage, separation, cohabitation in the present or past, (ex) boyfriend/girlfriend, or people with children together.
The New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act specifies 18 criminal acts that constitute domestic violence if they are committed against an intimate partner.
- False imprisonment
- Criminal sexual contact
- Terroristic threats
- Criminal restraint
- Sexual assault
- Criminal mischief
- Criminal trespass
- Criminal coercion
- Contempt of a domestic violence order and
- Any crime involving risk of death or serious bodily injury
Domestic Violence Penalties
The charge and conviction of a domestic violence crime depend largely on the underlying criminal offense committed. As mentioned above, there are 18 criminal offenses that could potentially constitute a domestic violence crime. These crimes range in severity from a first-degree crime (the most serious) to a fourth-degree crime (the least serious); all of which will result in fines, restitution and prison time.
First-degree crimes will lead to a prison sentence between 10 and 20 years and a fine of up to $200,000. If the crime is murder, however, the court can increase the years a defendant spends in prison.
Second-degree crimes warrant a prison sentence of between 5 and 10 years and a fine up to $150,000.
Third-degree crimes will result in a sentence of 3 to 5 years in prison and a fine up to $15,000.
There are 33 municipal courts in Ocean County that hear domestic violence cases. Where you are charged will determine where you will be tried. There are two Superior Court locations that also have the authority to hear these cases, one at the Ocean County Courthouse and one at the Ocean County Justice Complex. Lower level offenses are sent to the Municipal Courts while indictable offenses go to the Superior Court.
Charged With Domestic Violence? The Lento Law Firm Can Help
If you've been charged with domestic violence in Ocean County, it's critical you secure the representation of a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You should never defend yourself in any case, let alone a case as serious as this one, and you won't have to with the help of the Lento Law Firm.
For a consultation, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento by phone at 888-535-3686 or online.