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When Can You Be Charged with Domestic Violence in New Jersey?

December 29, 2023 | Posted In Criminal Law

In New Jersey, assault and other crimes can be charged as domestic violence when they are committed (or allegedly committed) against “protected persons.” Having your charge classified as a domestic violence offense can expose you to additional penalties, and it is not an exaggeration to say that a conviction could impact all aspects of your life.

As a result, if you have been charged with domestic violence—or if you are concerned about being charged with domestic violence—you need to take your situation very seriously. This starts with speaking to a New Jersey domestic violence lawyer about your next steps.

“Protected Persons” Under New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA)

The term “protected persons” is defined in New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA). This is a state law that is designed to help protect victims of domestic violence—and to ensure that those who engage in acts of domestic violence are severely punished.

Under the PDVA, assault and other crimes committed against “protected persons” are prosecuted differently than crimes committed against other individuals. “Protected persons” include:

  • Spouses and domestic partners (current and former)
  • Boyfriends and girlfriends (current and former)
  • Members of the defendant’s household (current and former)
  • Parents of shared children
  • Victims with whom the defendant is expecting a child

To qualify as domestic violence, an alleged crime doesn’t necessarily need to be committed against a member of the defendant’s household. While many cases involve allegations against current spouses and partners who share the same roof, New Jersey prosecutors can also pursue domestic violence charges in cases involving individuals who live separately. Similarly, a formal legal relationship is not required. For example, the PDVA allows prosecutors to pursue domestic violence charges in cases involving crimes allegedly committed by “a person whom the [victim] has dated.”   

Crimes Commonly Charged as Domestic Violence in New Jersey

The PDVA lists numerous crimes that can be prosecuted as domestic violence in the relevant circumstances. If you are facing any charges arising out of an alleged domestic incident, you should speak with a New Jersey domestic violence lawyer promptly. Some examples of crimes commonly charged as domestic violence in New Jersey include:


The crime of assault involves “purposely, knowingly or recklessly caus[ing] bodily injury to another; or . . . [n]egligently caus[ing] bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon. . . .” In cases involving serious bodily injury, prosecutors can file charges for aggravated assault, which is a much more serious crime. Accusations of assault and aggravated assault filed against spouses, partners, boyfriends and girlfriends, and other “protected persons” are among the most common types of domestic violence allegations in New Jersey.

Criminal Trespass

Criminal trespass can involve entering a residence or other structure without authorization or remaining in a structure “surreptitiously.” While it is a defense to criminal trespass that the defendant “reasonably believed that the owner of the structure, or other person empowered to license access thereto, would have licensed him to enter or remain,” this can get complicated in domestic violence cases.

False Imprisonment

Prosecutors can pursue domestic violence charges based on false imprisonment when the defendant is accused of knowingly and unlawfully restraining the victim “so as to interfere substantially with [the victim’s] liberty.” False imprisonment charges are common in cases in which the victim alleges that he or she felt trapped or unable to escape a violent (or potentially violent) situation safely.


Harassment allegations can take many different forms. All of these forms can lead to domestic violence charges when the harassment is allegedly committed against a protected person. Some examples of harassment under New Jersey law include:

  • Contacting the victim at “extremely inconvenient hours” or using “offensively coarse language;”
  • Threatening to commit an assault against the victim or the victim’s child; and,
  • Repeatedly engaging in conduct that is intended to “alarm or seriously annoy” the victim.

Due to the vague nature of New Jersey’s harassment statute, prosecutors can file harassment-based domestic violence charges in a wide range of circumstances. But there are many potential defenses to these charges as well, and an experienced New Jersey domestic violence lawyer will be able to help protect you by all means available.


While kidnapping is similar to false imprisonment in that it involves restraining someone against their will, there are additional elements to kidnapping charges under New Jersey law. Prosecutors can pursue kidnapping charges in domestic violence cases if they can prove that the defendant “unlawfully confine[d] another for a substantial period” in order to inflict injury, terrorize, deprive custody or commit any other crime.


The crime of robbery involves causing (or threatening to cause) harm in the course of committing a theft. For example, if a boyfriend or girlfriend threatens violence while taking the other’s car or other personal property, this can lead to a domestic violence robbery charge under the PDVA.


Under New Jersey law, the crime of stalking involves “purposefully or knowingly engag[ing] in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his safety or the safety of a third person or suffer other emotional distress.” This “course of conduct” can involve maintaining visual or physical proximity, surveilling, threatening, making threats or engaging in other forms of harassment.

Again, these are just some of the most common examples. Making terroristic threats, sexual assault, burglary, coercion and many other allegations can lead to domestic violence charges in New Jersey as well. If you need to defend against any type of domestic violence allegations, you should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.

Speak with a New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer in Confidence

We have extensive experience defending individuals charged with all types of domestic violence in New Jersey. We can help you if you are facing charges (or are concerned that you may soon be facing charges), but it is important that you contact us as soon as possible. To speak with an experienced New Jersey domestic violence lawyer in confidence, call 877-435-6371 or tell us how we can get in touch online today.

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