If you've been slapped with charges that constitute domestic violence, your goal is clear: Mitigate harm to the greatest possible degree. Charges under New Jersey's domestic violence statutes range in severity, as do the potential legal consequences of a conviction.
Each case is unique, and some defendants accused of domestic violence will settle for nothing less than clearing their name—a plea bargain may be out of the question. For many defendants facing stiff legal penalties, an outcome like probation is more than acceptable.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento will review your case, speak with you, and help you determine if probation is a suitable target for your case.
What Charges Fall Under the Category of "Domestic Violence" in New Jersey?
New Jersey's Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 categorized several offenses as domestic violence, granted the offenses occurred between individuals who fit the criteria for domestic relationships.
You could be subject to domestic violence-specific sentencing guidelines if you face charges of:
● Terroristic threats
● Criminal restraint
● False imprisonment
● Sexual assault
● Criminal trespass
● Criminal coercion
● Criminal sexual contact
● Criminal mischief
You can view the corresponding statute for each of these criminal offenses here. The possibility of probation as a primary sentence is greater for some of these charges than others. You may also face probation if you violate a temporary or permanent restraining order that falls under the category of domestic offenses.
Those with no prior criminal convictions, a need for substance-related treatment, or those facing relatively minor domestic charges may be prime candidates for probation.
The state of New Jersey grants judges significant leeway to order probation, either as an initial sentence or as a term of release. Whether you're sentenced to serve jail or prison time, or have yet to receive a sentence for pending domestic violence charges, probation could become a reality for you (sooner or later).
What Possible Sentences Could You Face for a Domestic Violence Charge in New Jersey?
If you're facing any domestic violence charge in New Jersey, you likely face possible sentences far more severe than probation. Depending on the degree of the charges against you, legal sentences may include:
● For an offense of the Fourth degree: Up to 18 months in prison
● For an offense of the Third degree: 3 to 5 years in prison
● For an offense of the Second degree: 5 to 10 years in prison
● For an offense of the First-degree: up to 20 years in prison
In addition to possible prison time, you may face substantial fines that could take years to pay. Such sentences may also carry hidden consequences: Lost custody of children, difficulty securing employment and housing, stigma, and related mental health problems.
When compared with such heavy-handed sentences, probation appears an acceptable outcome for many defendants facing domestic violence charges.
What Would Probation Mean for My Day-to-Day Life in New Jersey?
If you're placed on probation related to a domestic violence charge, it will become a significant feature of your life. New Jersey Courts describe the realities of life on probation, including:
● Regular reporting to a probation officer, and cooperation in conversations with the probation officer
● Payment of fines
● Completion of community service
● Compliance with any home visits that the probation officer chooses to make
● Abstinence from drugs and alcohol
● Completion of any counseling or courses required as a condition of probation
● Abstinence from any and all criminal activity
● Completion of regular work or job training
Note that conditions of probation can vary on a case-by-case basis. While these requirements can be a headache, you must consider the alternative—being in jail or prison, and possibly facing other penalties.
By law, probation in New Jersey lasts a year or more, but not more than five years.
What Happens If I Violate Probation?
Violating the terms of your probation for a domestic offense can have devastating consequences, as the court may:
● Revoke your probation
● Impose a stiffer sentence, possibly including jail or prison time
● Alter the conditions of your probation to make them more strict
● Impose other unfavorable consequences
You have the right to a hearing, where your attorney can address any alleged violation of probation. Such hearings can be truly life-defining, and it's wise to have an experienced attorney by your side.
Should I Hire an Attorney to Help Me Seek Probation, or an Even More Favorable Outcome to My Case?
Whether you're dealing with a Family Court, Municipal Court, or Criminal Court in New Jersey, there are several reasons to hire an attorney. Each of these courts have the power to place you on probation, and may also impose far more damaging penalties against you. It's critical that you have an experienced lawyer to seek the most favorable outcome possible.
An attorney can:
● Ensure that you clearly understand the terms of your probation
● Be an advocate when issues arise with your probation officer or the court that placed you on probation
● Provide advice specific to your probation
● Fight against any unreasonable conditions of your probation, or the addition of new conditions that make life more difficult for you
Your attorney can request modification to your probationary terms, especially when conditions place you at a high, unreasonable risk of violating probation. A lawyer can work with your probation officer to make such a request to the courts.
It is also possible for the court that placed you under probation to discharge you from probation at any time. Your lawyer may make such a request for discharge at the appropriate time.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can provide valuable advice regardless of where you find yourself in the criminal justice process. Being on probation is like walking a tightrope, and an attorney will work diligently to free you from probationary conditions as quickly as possible.
Call The Lento Law Firm Today
With around 4 million Americans on community supervision at any given time, and thousands of individuals on probation in New Jersey alone, you can be easily lost in the shuffle. It's important that you have an experienced advocate to handle all issues related to your probation.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team treat clients like human beings, doing everything in their power to achieve dismissals, reduce charges, attain probation (rather than harsher sentences), and help clients remain in compliance with the conditions of their probation.
Call The Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or submit your case details online. We'll fight for you.