New Jersey Domestic Violence Attorney
Domestic violence charges are very serious and are often an uphill battle for defendants. Severe repercussions can result. In addition to a possible conviction for any related criminal charges stemming from the domestic violence incident, you could lose your reputation, your job, and much, much more. You also may be subject to a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) or Final Restraining Order (FRO), which can have many consequences and restrictions on your life.
If you’ve been served with a restraining order, you have no time to lose. The process moves quickly, and procrastination could do irreparable damage to your case. You need someone on your side to fight for a fair result. New Jersey domestic violence defense attorney Matthew Portella has 25 years of experience in helping people get the right outcome in their cases. Call us today at (856) 310-9800 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and discuss how we can help you.
The New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17, et seq.
In 1991, the New Jersey legislature took action to address the serious crimes associated with domestic violence. It adopted the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act in response to a growing realization that stronger laws were needed to protect victims of domestic violence. It expanded who can be charged with domestic violence as well as what conduct can be considered domestic violence while affording greater protection to the vulnerable and increasing the potential penalties. Domestic violence charges are very serious. If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense related to the domestic violence incident, you could be facing possible jail or prison time and heavy fines. Domestic violence charges can also have other negative repercussions such as:
- Loss of your job
- Loss of the right to go back to your home
- Loss of child custody and/or restrictions on visitation
- Increased child support payments
- Public stigma
If you’re facing domestic abuse allegations, you should speak with an experienced New Jersey domestic violence defense attorney as soon as possible. The process is designed to move quickly in order to protect the victims of domestic violence, but you can quickly lose your rights if you don’t take action to defend yourself right away.
Who Can Be Charged With Domestic Violence Under New Jersey Law?
Domestic violence is not limited to violence between two married spouses or between a parent and a child. Under the New Jersey Domestic Violence Prevention Act, the following relationships can serve as the basis for domestic violence charges:
- Former spouses
- Adult children
- People who are in a dating relationship
- Former romantic partners
- People who have a child or children in common
- Household members or former household members, as determined by the police officer
New Jersey domestic violence laws apply to any current or past close relationship, and they do not need to be living together at the time the violence occurred.
Offenses That Are Included Under Domestic Violence
The Domestic Violence Prevent Act was amended in 2016 and now includes 19 offenses that can be considered domestic violence.
- Violation of a restraining order
- Crimes involving risk of death or bodily injury to anyone protected by the Act
- Criminal trespass
- Harassment via the internet
- Sexual assault
- Criminal sexual contact
- False imprisonment
- Criminal restraint
- Criminal coercion
- Criminal mischief
- Terroristic threats
Each of these crimes has its own separate elements that must be proven, and it’s not uncommon for prosecutors to charge someone with multiple crimes as part of a domestic abuse case. If you are facing charges of domestic abuse, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to challenge the plaintiff and either get the charges dismissed or fight for a dismissal of criminal charges. An attorney can also help with your separate restraining order case brought by the domestic violence accuser.
Domestic violence charges usually involve the alleged victim seeking a restraining order. A restraining order is a court order that restricts one person from having contact with another. It will typically bar the person from having any communication with the victim and the victim’s family or friends. It will also typically prohibit that person from going to the victim’s home or place of employment. The New Jersey Domestic Violence Registry (NJDVR) also allows law enforcement to access and see that you have a restraining order against you.
Criminal charges related to the TRO are heard in the Criminal Division of the Court with the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt whereas the restraining order hearing occurs in the Family Division of the court with the standard of proof being a preponderance of the evidence. You should have a lawyer who understands how to handle both aspects of a domestic violence case.
Temporary Restraining Orders
If the court or judge decides that you have committed an act of domestic violence, then a temporary restraining order (TRO) will be issued against you. As the name implies, TROs are effective until a final restraining order (FRO) is issued. They are the first step in the process and are relatively easy to get. The alleged victim (called the “plaintiff”) needs to make a complaint to the police or Family Division of the local Superior Court. If the court determines that there is merit to the request, the TRO will be issued with a hearing to be held by a judge within ten days to determine if a FRO would be issued. The TRO, however, will be effective from the date it is served on you, and law enforcement can seize any firearms or other weapons such as knives, crossbows, hunting weapons, etc. you may have.
Final Restraining Orders
Final restraining orders (FRO) replace temporary restraining orders (TRO) after a hearing at which a judge hears the evidence of both sides and then makes a determination whether the plaintiff is entitled to having a FRO. An FRO can be more detailed than a TRO and do not expire with the passage of time. In order to issue an FRO, the judge must find the following:
- The parties have a relationship covered by the Domestic Violence Prevention Act
- You committed one of the qualifying acts of violence under the Act, and that the plaintiff is in need of the protections of an FRO to protect him/him from future acts of domestic violence by you
It’s important to note that the judge determines whether you have committed an act of violence and issue an FRO without a jury hearing the case. If you’ve been served with a TRO, you should contact a New Jersey domestic violence attorney as soon as possible because your rights are at stake. FROs can impose the following restrictions:
- Restricted or loss of custody and visitation of your children
- Temporary surrender of personal property
- Required counseling or therapy including anger management
- Payment of fines
- Restrictions on ownership and possession of firearms or other weapons
- Forfeiture of your firearms identification card
- A ban from you returning to the scene of the domestic violence which can include you not being allowed to return to your home
Setting Aside Final Restraining Orders
FROs remain in full effect until the court orders otherwise. As a result, you or the alleged victim must file a motion with the court in order to have the FRO dismissed. In considering the motion, the judge must take several factors under review based on the court ruling in the case Carfagno v. Carfagno:
- Whether the victim consented to lift the restraining order
- Whether the victim fears the defendant
- The nature of the relationship between the parties today
- The number of times that the defendant has been convicted of contempt for violating the order
- Whether the defendant has continuing involvement with drug or alcohol abuse
- Whether the defendant has been involved in other violent acts with other persons
- Whether the defendant has engaged in counseling
- The age and health of the defendant
- Whether the victim is acting in good faith when opposing the defendant’s request
- Whether another jurisdiction has entered a restraining order protecting the victim from the defendant
- Other factors deemed relevant by the court.
As you can see, FROs are not easily undone, which is all the more reason to mount an aggressive defense from the very outset.
Contact New Jersey Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Matthew Portella
You should never take allegations of domestic violence lightly and time is not on your side because of the swiftness in which the courts wish to resolve restraining order matters. Your first priority should be to speak with an experienced domestic violence defense attorney as soon as possible. Otherwise, it may be too late.
Attorney Matthew Portella has been helping people charged with crimes in New Jersey for 25 years. He provides his clients with skilled, knowledgeable legal representation to make sure they get a fair result.