New Jersey enacted the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) in 1982 to help protect victims of domestic abuse and violence and hold perpetrators accountable. Since its inception, the PDVA has certainly helped to protect real domestic violence victims and safeguard families from actual serious abuse by providing Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) or Final Restraining Orders (FROs) and other forms of relief.
However, numerous people have been falsely accused and unjustly prosecuted for crimes they did not commit under the PDVA. Even those deserving penalty typically face harsh, long-term consequences that may not fit the crime in question.
Now, 40 years later, many attorneys and other professionals who work in family law and criminal law believe the PDVA is long overdue for a "commonsense review of its application and impact on litigants."
If you face (or suspect you could face) allegations, formal charges, or custody issues because of restraining orders or criminal charges resulting from New Jersey's PDVA, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at once.
Issues with New Jersey's PDVA
The PDVA began with a laudable goal: to provide a safe haven to victims of domestic violence against their alleged abusers by threatening the offenders with arrest and criminal consequences. The initial step in the PDVA process is for a magistrate, family, or another appropriate court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against an alleged offender.
Although courts should take into account any evidence to implicate or exonerate the alleged offender, in practice, the courts typically grant TROs regardless of what the complaint alleges with little or no evidentiary procedure.
One reason is that an allegation of harassment, for instance, has "become so amorphous and broad" that anyone can get a TRO against someone else for just about anything. The courts should screen applicants more thoroughly for TROs based on harassment.
After a TRO, the court may grant a final restraining order (FRO). This usually occurs soon afterward, leaving the defendant virtually no time to gather evidence for their defense. Hearings are typically short and summarily handled, which raises doubts about due process. FROs can have considerable negative impacts on a defendant's life and future, including if they can ever see their children again.
Some argue that FROs should not be permanent. The PDVA should be amended to allow courts to review FROs after a period, say one to five years, to determine whether to change any of the FRO's terms or revoke it altogether.
How Can I Defend Myself?
The PDVA has helped many, true, but it has also overburdened New Jersey's court system, ruined the lives of litigants falsely accused, and complicated "already dysfunctional family relationships."
If you face any allegations or charges of domestic violence or are subject to a restraining order, contact Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm right away. We have many years of experience defending clients facing TROs, FROs, and domestic violence charges, and we can review your case and advise you of your options. We can also help you build and present a strong defense and fight hard for your future.