Domestic Violence

Many victims are not aware of their rights as a victim of domestic violence.

This page has been added to our homepage in hopes of educating the public about the present law dealing with Domestic Violence in New Jersey and the procedures followed by the police and courts.

The following information was taken from “The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991”.

1. Court of Jurisdiction:

 Temporary Restraining Order:

In New Jersey, a Temporary Restraining Order may be entered against a defendant who has been alleged to be a batterer, in the following courts:

 Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part

A victim may approach the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, during regular court hours (8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.) to seek a Temporary Restraining Order. Temporary Restraining Orders may be granted by either a Judge of the Superior Court, Family Part or a Domestic Violence Hearing Officer.

Municipal Court

After 3:30 p.m. and on weekends and other times when the Superior Courts are closed, a victim contacts local law enforcement who assists the victim in obtaining a Temporary Restraining Order from a Municipal Court Judge.

Final Restraining Order:

Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part (Only)

A hearing must be scheduled before a Judge of the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, within 10 days after a Temporary Restraining Order has been entered. Only a Judge of the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, may grant a Final Restraining Order.

 

2. Protected Classes:

A victim of domestic violence is a person protected by the Domestic Violence Act (including abuse and neglect of the elderly and disabled) and includes any person:

  • who is 18 years of age or older, or
  • who is an emancipated minor, and who has been subjected to domestic violence by:
    • spouse
    • former spouse
    • any other person who is a present or former household member, OR
  • who regardless of age, has been subjected to domestic violence by a person:
    • with whom the victim has had a child in common, or
    • with whom the victim has had a dating relationship.
  • who, regardless of age, has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship.
    • a victim may be below the age of 18.
    • a domestic violence assailant must be over the age of 18 or emancipated at the time of the offense.

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act does not define a victim of domestic violence by age, physical or psychological condition or sex.

An unemancipated minor who commits an act of domestic violence may not be prosecuted as a domestic violence defendant but can be prosecuted under the juvenile delinquency laws. The entry of pre- or post-dispositional restraints can also be considered.

A minor is considered emancipated from his or her parents when the minor:

  • has been married
  • has entered military service
  • has a child or is pregnant
  • has been previously declared by the court or an administrative agency to be emancipated.

 

3. Definition of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence means the occurrence of one or more of the following criminal offenses upon a person protected under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act:

Homicide

Terroristic Threats

Criminal Restraint

Sexual Assault

Criminal Sexual Contact

Burglary

Harassment

 

N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1

N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3

N.J.S.A. 2C:13-2

N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2

N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3

N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2

N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4

Assault

Kidnapping

False Imprisonment

Lewdness

Criminal Mischief

Criminal Trespass

Stalking

N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1

N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1

N.J.S.A. 2C:13-3

N.J.S.A. 2C:14-4

N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3

N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3

N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10

Stalking has been added as an enumerated offense. Stalking is defined in N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10b as follows:

A person is guilty of stalking, a crime of the fourth degree, if he purposely and repeatedly follows another person and engages in a course of conduct or makes a credible threat with the intent of annoying or placing that person in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury.

Harassment is defined in N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 as follows:

…a person commits a petty disorderly persons offense if, with purpose to harass another, he:

    • Makes, or causes to be made, a communication or communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm;
    •  Subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so; or
    • Engages in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other person.

Possible Reliefs:

Victim:

Granting exclusive possession of residence.

Granting temporary custody of children.

Emergent support to victim, dependent(s).

Ongoing support to victim, dependent(s) (Final Restraining Order only).

Punitive damages (Final Restraining Order only).

Punitive damages to third parties (Final Restraining Order only).

Medical coverage to victim, dependent(s).

Rent or mortgage payments.

Placing limitation on visitation and assessing risk to children posed by the defendant.

Compensatory damage.

Law enforcement accompaniment by either party to shared residence to supervise removal of personal belongings.

 

Prohibitions against Defendant:

Prohibition from returning to scene of violence.

Prohibition from future acts of domestic violence.

Prohibition from locations where victim (and others) are employed or reside.

Prohibition from any oral, written, personal or other form of contact with victim and others.

Prohibition from making or causing anyone else to make harassing communications to victim and others.

Prohibition from stalking, following or threatening to harm, to stalk or to follow victim and others.

Payment of emergent monetary relief to victim and dependents.

Defendant may be made subject to intake monitoring of conditions and restraints.

Defendant may be ordered to psychiatric or other evaluations or treatment.

Prohibition against possession of weapons including application to purchase firearm, permit to carry firearm and firearm purchaser identification card.

 

Sanctions for Non-Compliance Civil and Criminal

Non-compliance Civil Relief:

Violation of a Civil Restraining Order may result in:

Civil contempt.

Criminal contempt.

Additionally, if a defendant violates portions of a restraining order pertaining to monetary compensation, visitation, rent or mortgage payments, temporary possession of specified personal property, or counseling, a victim may motion the court for Enforcement of Litigant’s Rights.

 

Non-compliance Criminal Relief:

Criminal Contempt

When a defendant “purposely or knowingly violates any provision” of an order entered under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, a defendant may be charged with criminal contempt of an existing order.

 

Violation of Probation

Violation of probation where defendant has been found or has pled guilty to criminal charges and has been placed on probation, or of criminal contempt and has been placed on probation.

A thirty-day mandatory term of incarceration for a second conviction for non-indictable contempt.

 

4. Weapons Seizure

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act authorizes the search for and the seizure of any weapon(s) in a number of different contexts. This includes both firearms or other weapons(s) illegally in the defendant’s possession, firearms or other weapon(s) that are used or threatened to be used in the domestic violence incident, and firearms or other legal weapon(s) that a court prohibits the defendant from possessing in a restraining order.

At the time the Temporary Restraining Order or Final Restraining Order is issued, the court is authorized to prohibit the possession of firearms or other weapon(s). The court can also order the defendant to immediately surrender such weapon(s), along with any issued application to purchase firearms, permit to carry a firearm, and/or firearms purchaser identification card at the time the restraining order is served. Failure by the defendant to do so may constitute criminal contempt of the restraining order. This prohibition can be accompanied by an order to search for and seize the weapon(s) at any location(s) where the court has reasonable cause to believe the weapon(s) is located. The court must state with specificity the reasons for and scope of the search and seizure. The order may also include a provision for the seizure of any applications to purchase firearms issued permits to carry a firearm, or firearms purchaser identification card that has been issued to the defendant.

In addition, police who are called to the scene of a domestic violence incident can ask about, locate, and seize weapons without first obtaining a restraining order that contains an order to search and seize. If an officer responding to a scene sees a weapon(s) or learns that a weapon(s) is present within the premises and reasonably believes that the weapon(s) would expose the victim to a risk of serious bodily injury, the law enforcement officer should attempt to gain possession of the weapon(s).

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act also provides for the forfeiture or return of seized weapons. Once a weapon or weapons has been seized, the Prosecutor has 45 days to move for forfeiture of the weapon(s), with notice to the plaintiff and the defendant. If the prosecutor does not do so, the weapons are to be returned to the defendant or other owner. Where forfeiture is pursued by the prosecutor, or where the prosecutor has failed to return the weapon(s) after the specified time frame, the court is to schedule a hearing within 15 days of the prosecutor’s or defendant’s request.

For further information click on the following site: http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/family/fam