In New Jersey, the commission of a domestic violence crime can result in imprisonment and fines for the offender. Punishment for conviction of a domestic violence offense depends on the grade of the crime, as set by law. The commission of domestic violence can also trigger the issuance of a restraining order issued by a court.
If you are being abused by your partner, you can contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
When looking for help as a victim of abuse, remember to consider how private your computer, Internet, and phone use are. Consider whether there's anything you can and should do to prevent someone else from learning that you're doing research or seeking help.
New Jersey defines domestic violence as the commission of one or more of the following criminal offenses, when committed by an adult or emancipated minor against a person who falls within the state's definition of a domestic violence victim:
An emancipated minor is a person who is under 18 years of age but who has been married, has entered military service, has had a child or is pregnant, or has been declared by a court or administrative agency to be emancipated. New Jersey's definition of domestic violence does not include instances where any of the above criminal offenses are committed by an unemancipated minor; however, such instances may serve as the basis for a court-issued restraining order.
To meet New Jersey's definition of domestic violence, one of the above criminal offenses must be committed by an adult or emancipated minor against a person who is:
(N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2C: 25-19)
Under New Jersey law, a law enforcement officer must arrest a suspect and sign a criminal complaint where (1) a person claims to have been the victim of domestic violence inflicted by the suspect, (2) the officer has sufficient evidence to believe that such violence occurred, and (3) one of the following circumstances applies:
An officer may make an arrest, sign a criminal complaint, or both where there is sufficient evidence to believe that a suspect committed domestic violence but none of the other conditions listed above exist; however, an officer is not required to make an arrest under such circumstances.
If two people show signs of physical injury and both claim to be the victim in a domestic violence incident, the officer must identify which person is the aggressor, by considering the injuries of each person relative to the other person's injuries, the history of domestic violence between the persons, and any other relevant factors.
(N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2C: 25-21)
A victim of domestic violence may file a complaint seeking protection from the offender. A court may grant an ex parte domestic violence restraining order where it determines the order is necessary to protect the victim's life, health, or well-being. (An ex parte order is one issued without the other side being present.) The judge may grant the ex parte order based on sworn testimony or based upon the applicant's complaint; under emergency circumstances, the ex parte order may be granted when even the applicant is not present. The defendant is not required to be notified prior the issuance of an ex parte domestic violence restraining order.
An emergency order can include but is not limited to provisions that:
Upon the court granting an ex parte order, law enforcement serves the defendant with a copy of the order. A full hearing with the plaintiff and the defendant is held within ten days of the filing of the complaint seeking the restraining order. If the court determines that the plaintiff proved the allegations in the complaint, it may issue an order containing provisions that:
(N.J. Rev. Stat. § § 2C: 25-28, 2C: 25-29, 2C: 25-30)
If the judge determines at the conclusion of the hearing that the defendant committed an act of domestic violence, the judge must order the defendant to pay a civil penalty of at least $50 but no more than $500. The judge must assess this penalty unless doing so would cause the defendant extreme financial hardship.
(N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2C:25-29.1)
A person who knowingly violates a term of a domestic violence restraining order is guilty of criminal contempt, a crime in the fourth degree, unless the violated provision pertains to parenting time, monetary compensation to the victim, counseling, rent or mortgage payments, or the surrendering of specified property to the victim.
A crime in the fourth degree can carry up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine, although prison time is not mandatory for a first conviction for criminal contempt of a domestic violence restraining order. A person convicted of a second or subsequent contempt offense for violating a domestic violence order must serve a minimum of 30 days in jail.
(N.J. Rev. Stat. § § 2C: 25-30, 2C:25-31, 2C: 29-9)
An allegation of domestic violence can result in the filing of criminal charges, the filing of a petition for a domestic violence restraining order, or both. A conviction for a domestic violence offense can carry severe consequences, including time in prison, and the issuance of a restraining order can result in limits on your freedom of movement and rights as a parent and property owner. If you are accused of domestic violence, you should speak with an attorney right away. An experienced attorney will provide valuable guidance throughout the pendency of your case while protecting your fundamental rights.