Domestic violence in New Jersey is defined as physical, sexual, emotional or economic abuse by an individual with whom the victim has a present or past relationship. The abuse can be actual or threatened. The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) of 1991 defines domestic violence as the occurrence of one or more of the following criminal offenses upon a “protected” person: homicide, assault, terrorist threats, kidnapping, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass, harassment, and stalking. A protected person in this context includes any person who is:
- 18 years or older,
- An emancipated minor who is a victim of domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse or any household member,
- Subjected to domestic violence by a person whom the victim shares a child with,
- Subjected to domestic violence by a person whom the victim has had a romantic relationship with.
In addition to the above factors, the defendant must be at least 18 years of age, or emancipated, to be found to have committed an act of domestic violence.
Because domestic violence may involve a wide variety of crimes, penalties differ based on the underlying charges. If there is a history of domestic violence or evidence of prior offenses, a defendant is more likely to receive a harsher punishment. It is also common for a domestic violence sentence to include a restraining or protection order. A protective order is a judicial order sought by the victim as a security measure from the alleged offender.
Under New Jersey law, police must arrest an alleged offender if the victim shows signs of physical abuse or injury once the police arrive. A restraining order will likely be issued if the victim calls 911 and shows physical signs of injury. In New Jersey, a restraining order will be issued even with little to no evidence. If a restraining order has been issued, failure to comply will result in additional criminal charges. A first-time violation of a restraining order is considered criminal contempt and is classified as a fourth-degree crime. Any subsequent violations will result in mandatory jail time.
Civil penalties will be imposed on any person found guilty of committing an act of domestic violence. The fines range from a minimum fine of $50, to a maximum fine of $500. Further, the fine amount is left to the discretion of the court and will likely depend on the degree of injury inflicted on the victim. If you are accused of any of the above acts of domestic violence, the arrest will remain on your record whether or not the charges are dropped. While you may be eligible to have your record expunged, you will have to wait at least 5 years after the alleged incident.