Under New Jersey law, incidents of domestic violence occur among those with a past or current intimate relationship. It may also involve parties who have a child together or that are expecting one. The actual offense is defined by this relationship rather than a specific criminal offense. Offenses considered as acts of domestic violence include murder, assault, sexual assault, terroristic threats, kidnapping, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, lewdness, criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass, harassment, cyber-harassment, stalking, criminal coercion, or robbery.
New Jersey Law Enforcement
A law enforcement agency in New Jersey may be a “department, division, bureau, commission, board” or other entity that employs officers. A law enforcement officer is one that assumes a public duty to uphold the law. They are responsible for detecting, apprehending, and arresting those who are believed to have violated the law.
Lawmakers in New Jersey acknowledge that statutes have existed that relate to domestic violence. Traditional “societal attitudes” have impacted the way that members of law enforcement and the courts handle these matters. As a result, often these acts are treated differently because they happen in a “domestic context.”
The Legislature has recognized that many victims are left insufficiently protected by the judicial system and that it sometimes fails to respond to emergencies. Emphasis is being placed on ensuring law enforcement protects victims and that the laws are more consistently enforced. Training processes have been enhanced to provide better insight into the social and psychological aspects of domestic violence.
Developments in Training (2C:25-20)
Domestic violence investigative and response training has been implemented by the Division of Criminal Justice. The curriculum is formally reviewed every two years and modified. All local police departments receive the curriculum. The Attorney General now requires that all officers attend an initial training within 90 days and then annual training of at least four hours.
Agencies of law enforcement are developing “domestic crisis teams.” Officers are trained on the best practices in handling incidents of domestic violence as well as curriculum about abusing or neglecting the elderly and disabled. Also, training in counseling and domestic intervention is provided by teams of social workers and clergy members.
Actions Related to Arresting Alleged Attackers (2C:25-21)
More specific procedures are in place for when an officer of law enforcement encounters an alleged victim of domestic violence. When there is probable cause that someone was a victim of domestic violence, the abuser will be arrested if:
- There are signs of an injury that resulted from domestic violence
- Someone has an arrest warrant
- Probable cause exists that an individual has violated a restraining order (contempt)
- Probable cause exists that the act(s) of domestic violence involved the usage of a weapon
In some instances, both parties may have been injured. The officer will compare these injuries based on severity and other related factors. This process may be important when evaluating which party was the victim. The victim will not be “denied relief or arrested” for using a reasonable amount of force to defend themselves.
The officer is authorized to seize a weapon when used in an act of domestic violence. The officer may question those at the scene regarding the presence of weapons. Any weapon that an officer believes could result in serious bodily harm may be seized. Any weapons seized are taken to a local prosecutor's office and inventoried.
Required Dissemination Notice to Victim (2C:25-23)
When an officer of law enforcement encounters a victim of domestic violence they must provide them (disseminate) with a written notice composed in both English and Spanish. This written notice explains that the victim has a right to ask the court for a temporary restraining order and other critical details.
Domestic Violence Report Requirement (2C:25-24)
When an officer responds to a scene where there was alleged domestic violence, they must complete an offense report. The information within the report is then passed along to the New Jersey State Police and Department of Law and Public Safety. A copy of this report is also forwarded to the appropriate municipal court. It may need to be forwarded to a Superior Court if the matter was transferred.
The following information may be contained in the officer's report:
- The nature of the relationship between the parties
- The gender of the parties involved
- The time and date that the alleged incident happened
- Information regarding any prior calls regarding domestic violence
- Information regarding any prior restraining orders that were issued
- When applicable, information regarding children they have or regarding any children that witnessed the incident
- Details regarding the severity of abuse
- When applicable, details concerning any weapons that were involved
- A summary of the actions taken by law enforcement officers
- Information regarding any prior violations of a restraining order and arrests that followed
- Any other information that is usefully in understanding the incident
Law Enforcement Procedures for Contempt (2C:25-31)
Any officer of law enforcement that has sufficient reason to believe that an individual has committed contempt by violating a court order may arrest that person. After being placed under arrest, the suspect is transferred to the local police station. The officer will search the database that contains all the information regarding cases of domestic violence. This information is referenced when completing the complaint about the violation.
Information regarding the arrest is forwarded to the judge that initially issued the restraining order. The alleged offender is placed in custody and bail is set. The judge may set the amount of bail when possible.
Importance of Retaining Legal Representation
Parties who are involved in cases of domestic violence should seek assistance from experienced legal counsel. An attorney can ensure that your rights are protected in any related hearings or court appearances. Those who are either the subject of a temporary restraining order or are alleged to have violated a court order should promptly consult with a criminal defense attorney.
New Jersey Lawyer Represents Clients in Cases of Domestic Violence
As the aforementioned information indicates, law enforcement and the judiciary are taking matters involving domestic violence very seriously. During this process, those representing these agencies may potentially be consumed with maintaining compliance and fail to ensure that you are afforded your legal rights. You are encouraged to contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686.