Domestic Violence during the Covid Crisis
Residents of New Jersey, like people across the country, face an unprecedented and historic crisis as we shelter in place to protect ourselves from the COVID-19 pandemic. As we self-isolate and observe the rigors of social distancing, there are increased pressures on couples, spouses, partners, and people who live together because of the crisis. Such close quarters cause increased anxiety, worry, and uncertainty about the future. Unfortunately for some, these circumstances may lead to aggression and violence which could result in the commission of a Domestic Violence offense.
It has been reported that domestic abuse is on the rise in areas under lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. Those who are stuck in their homes, unable to leave out of fear for the safety of themselves and their family, may be caught in situations that escalate into domestic violence. If you or someone you know is caught in a situation like this, read below for information which may help.
What is domestic violence?
New Jersey law defines “victim of domestic violence” as an adult or emancipated minor who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom they share a “qualifying relationship.” A qualifying relationship can be:
- Spouse (current or former);
- Household member (current or former);
- Father or mother of a child in common including if one of the parties is pregnant;
- Boyfriend/girlfriend/dating partner (current or former);
- Sexual partner (current or former).
A person commits domestic violence when he or she commit certain “predicate acts” or criminal offenses against a person with whom they share one or more of the relationships listed above. Those predicate acts are as follows:
- Terroristic threats
- Criminal restraint
- False imprisonment
- Sexual assault
- Criminal sexual contact
- Criminal trespass
What to do if domestic violence has occurred
In the event of a domestic violence offense, the police should be called immediately, including 911 if there is an emergency. Even if the caller does not specifically mention domestic violence, the police are trained to review cases and determine if there is an incidence of domestic violence. If the victim requests, or the if the police determine that the situation is serious enough, the police will assist the victim in securing a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). The TRO will order the defendant not to have any contact or communication with the victim. The TRO can also:
- Order the police to seize all weapons possessed by the defendant;
- Order the defendant not to return to the residence, even if it is their primary residence;
- Set temporary parenting time with any shared children.
Under normal circumstances, a Superior Court Judge would have 10 days to determine whether a Final Restraining Order (FRO) should be granted.
How has the pandemic affected domestic violence protections?
It is important for everyone to know that the courts are still hearing TRO applications, which are likely being held by video or telephonic conference with the judge. These applications should be made through the police; the county courts are not open to the public and you may not be able to file for a TRO in the Family Division. In addition, the courts are closed to in-person hearings, which includes FRO hearings. If a judge orders you to appear via video or telephone for a FRO hearing, you should contact an attorney immediately.
Also, you should know that the NJ Supreme Court has released many inmates from county jail, whether they are serving sentences or awaiting trial for an offense. If you are a victim and the defendant in your case has been released, the prosecutor or law enforcement agent is obligated to notify you.
We can help you
If you are facing a domestic violence charge or a restraining order, it’s important to contact an experienced attorney today. Attorney Matthew Portella has been assisting people charged with domestic violence in Pleasantville for more than 25 years. He offers his clients skillful, knowledgeable legal representation to make sure they get a fair result.
If you’d like to schedule a free consultation with Mr. Portella, please call us today at (856) 310-9800 or fill out our online contact form to discuss how we can help you.