Domestic violence has been on the minds of practically everyone from the media to state lawmakers, especially after the video depicting football player Ray Rice hitting his then-finance went viral last month. In response to public outrage over the crimes of domestic violence and spousal abuse, as well as the rise in public testimonies from abuse victims who never left their attackers, the State Assembly has approved a series of new bills related to domestic abuse and violence, family and criminal defense lawyers in New Jersey report.
Domestic violence issues are often fraught with challenges, both for the victims and the accused perpetrators, as the subject itself is very sensitive and highly explosive. Often, domestic violence cases are strongly influenced by outside forces, whether it is the media, support groups, other family members or simply societal misconceptions, misunderstandings or stereotypes. Because of the potential landmine, laws regarding domestic violence penalties and the rights of both the accused and the alleged victims are tricky to change or introduce, especially in today’s society.
How the Bills Will Help Victims
New Jersey’s package, which includes five bills aimed at preventing violence from happening, investigating alleged abuse with new police procedures and offering victims more options, were already on the table before the video of Rice was leaked to the public. However, in the wake of the video’s distribution, the bills gained overwhelming support and were unanimously passed by the Assembly Women and Children Committee.
The bills cover a variety of changes to existing laws for victims and those convicted of spousal abuse or violence. For instance, A1310 will require anyone who has been found guilty of committing domestic violence to go to counseling as part of the rehabilitation plan. A1953 will require police officers to search the state’s registry of domestic violence reports and current restraining orders when they are called to homes on suspicion of domestic violence.
The remaining three bills are aimed at victim protection. A2154 will allow victims of domestic violence to give their testimonies against the accused abuser through closed-circuit television. A1579 will allow courts to admit restraining orders into evidence to determine whether the “use of force” was justifiable in situations where a victim is charged with attacking the abuser. Further, victims of domestic violence who have been incarcerated will be given the option to participate in an early release and reintegration program as per bill A1677.
While most legislators in the state support these bills, some have raised concerns about the specifics of the domestic violence package. The New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault would like to expand the closed circuit testimony bill, A2154, to include victims of sexual assault, rape, and other violence. Additionally, some believe that the bill may cause a strain for municipal courts, as many of them are not equipped currently to provide that option for victims.
At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our family and criminal defense attorneys represent persons who have been charged with or involved in a domestic violence dispute. For more information regarding your case or the new bills, contact an HCK attorney today.