Defendants pleading to or convicted of first offense domestic violence crimes tend to receive significantly lighter sentences than defendants convicted of second or subsequent offenses. That treatment shouldn't be surprising. Judges tend to view more skeptically and sentence more harshly repeat offenders committing any crimes. If the first punishment didn't reform the defendant, then stiffer second punishment might. But what may surprise a defendant facing a second or subsequent domestic violence charge is just how much stiffer the second or subsequent punishment might be. If you face domestic violence charges, better hope that they are only your first charged offense. And no matter the charge number, first, second, or subsequent, retain premier New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to defend and defeat those charges. Domestic violence is a serious matter carrying potentially stiff sentences. Retain the best available New Jersey criminal defense attorney for a winning defense.
Domestic Violence Punishments
Domestic violence enhancements in New Jersey criminal cases can lead to widely disparate sentences depending on the underlying crime charged and the mitigating or aggravating evidence. New Jersey's Domestic Violence Prevention Act does not name a single domestic violence crime. It instead enhances certain crimes when they occur against domestic victims. N.J. Stat. 2C:25-19a identifies both more-serious indictable offenses (formerly felony offenses) as crimes qualifying for domestic violence upgrade and less-serious disorderly persons (misdemeanor) offenses as other domestic-violence enhancement crimes. The indictable crimes like homicide, sexual assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, criminal restraint, and burglary can carry long ten, twenty, or even thirty-year prison sentences and hefty fines. The disorderly persons crimes typically carry sentences of probation or under six months in jail and small fines. Other factors, though, especially including the number and seriousness of any prior domestic violence convictions, can heavily influence those already widely varying sentences. Retain New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to help you discern what you could face and to obtain your best possible outcome.
The fact that your charge is just a first offense can be a huge mitigating factor. Domestic arguments happen in nearly every household. Those arguments sometimes get out of control despite the parties' better desires and intentions. Depending on the testimony, evidence, and sentencing information, a judge could reasonably view a first domestic violence offense as a one-time mistake, even though a serious mistake. A judge could reasonably believe that the first-time offender is highly unlikely to ever repeat the offense, even if the offender receives the lightest of sentences. Other mitigating factors can further influence the judge toward a lighter sentence, even probation. Those factors may include the defendant's weakened mental, emotional, or physical condition, the defendant's expressions of regret, that the victim suffered no injuries, that the victim believes in the defendant's good character and ordinary safety, the absence of any property damage, the absence of any threat to the community, and the defendant's support system.
Even if your New Jersey domestic violence charge is for a first time offense, aggravating factors can significantly increase the potential sentence well beyond the typical probation or short jail term often given for a first time offense. The offense number may not matter if aggravating factors show that the defendant deserves as punishment and requires for reform a longer prison term and large fine for the domestic violence. Judges have victims, communities, reputations, and professional relationships to protect. Judges are ordinarily very reluctant to give light sentences for serious offenses causing substantial harm and raising substantial victim and community risks. Aggravating factors can include serious injury to the victim, substantial property damage, that the offense occurred in the presence of children or other vulnerable household members, that the offense included the use or threatened use of deadly weapons and the uttering of credible death threats, that the defendant has shown little or no credible regret, that the offense occurred without triggering or contributing causes, and that the defendant's mental and emotional profile continues to indicate volatility and safety risk. The outcome for domestic violence charges isn't all about the offense number. It's instead a lot about the presence or absence of aggravating factors.
Second and Subsequent Offenses
One of the biggest aggravating factors, though, is indeed that the crime involved a second or subsequent domestic violence offense. New Jersey's commitment, clearly expressed in its Domestic Violence Prevention Act, is to prevent, discourage, and prohibit domestic violence. One way that judges absolutely prevent a defendant's further domestic violence is to incarcerate them long term. When a prior first offense charge, conviction, and sentence haven't reformed the defendant, a judge could reasonably conclude that a second offense conviction and sentence may not do so either. The best solution may then appear to be to literally lock up the dangerous defendant and throw away the figurative key. Second and subsequent domestic violence offenses run the risk of ending up with very long prison terms ensuring no further offenses.
Violating a Restraining Order
One other common factor can seriously aggravate the sentence, this factor even for a first offense. Many domestic disputes involving volatile and threatening behavior end up with restraining orders issued against one or both of the parties. Restraining orders are a good step short of a domestic violence charge and conviction. No one goes to jail under a restraining order unless a party violates the order. Restraining order violations may result in only a few days of embarrassing corrective incarceration. When, though, a restraining order's violation involves a rank domestic violence crime, judges are much more likely to impose significantly longer sentences than they ordinarily would for a first offense. Probation or a few days or weeks in jail may instead turn into months or even years of prison incarceration.
Retain the Best Available Domestic Violence Defense
New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm criminal defense team are available for your aggressive and effective defense of New Jersey domestic violence charges, whether involving a first time or subsequent offense. If your domestic violence charge is a first time offense, attorney Lento has the effective strategic approach, best reputation, and strongest skills to obtain your most favorable outcome. Call 888.535.3686 or go online now to retain attorney Lento for your winning defense.