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Few New Jersey criminal charges can upend your life faster and more harshly than charges of domestic violence. In fact, your world can be thrown into turmoil instantly, well before you are actually charged with a crime. The mere allegation that you have committed an act of domestic abuse – whether true or not – is enough under New Jersey law to have you removed from your home and separated from your kids, among other severe consequences. If you do not take your domestic violence charge seriously and retain an experienced New Jersey domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible, you could be risking everything including, but not limited to, losing custody of your children, losing all of your weapons permanently and being unable to own a firearm, losing your job, and being barred from coaching or supervising other children.
At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., our New Jersey domestic violence lawyers understand what is at stake. While our team also understands that actual cases of domestic violence should be treated as the serious crimes they are, the sad reality is that false allegations are too often made or exaggerated for cynical reasons, such as gaining an advantage in a divorce case or custody dispute.
Whatever the underlying circumstances may be, our attorneys stand ready to protect your rights from the moment you reach out to us. Domestic violence cases in New Jersey proceed much faster than other criminal matters, and it can be easy to get steamrolled by aggressive prosecutors and a legal framework specifically designed to impose swift and severe consequences. If you choose our firm, a New Jersey domestic violence attorney will use their extensive experience and aggressive approach to criminal defense in a relentless effort to clear your name, defeat your charges and restore your normal life.
Domestic violence in New Jersey is not just one offense; it can be any number of criminal offenses as set forth in the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 (PDVA). What makes an offense an act of domestic violence is that it is committed against a “protected person” with whom the accused has or had a relationship. Under the PDVA, protected persons include:
Domestic violence charges against a protected person can be based on any of the following criminal acts:
Of course, the issuance of a restraining order may only be the first of many consequences if you are ultimately found guilty of domestic violence. If the alleged victim files a criminal complaint and you are convicted, you could be facing significant fines, time behind bars and a stain on your reputation that could follow you for the rest of your life.
In domestic violence cases, the fines and prison time that are on the table are the same as those that apply in cases involving offenses against non-protected persons. New Jersey classifies crimes as “indictable offenses” and “disorderly persons offenses,” and the penalties for domestic violence crimes are determined based upon their classification:
Crimes that can be charged as domestic violence under the PDVA run the entire range of classifications. For example, while lewdness can be classified as a disorderly persons offense (although it can also be charged as a fourth-degree indictable offense), homicide and sexual assault crimes targeting protected persons can be charged as first-degree indictable offenses carrying the potential for life behind bars. Other examples include:
As discussed above, the criminal penalties for domestic violence charges in New Jersey can be substantial. All domestic violence crimes carry possible jail or prison time, and you can face consequences long after your release. But these are not the only consequences of domestic violence charges in New Jersey.
Facing domestic violence charges can also impact your legal rights in family law matters. This includes issues related to divorce proceedings as well as child custody matters for unmarried parents. In addition to representing individuals in criminal matters, we represent individuals in family law matters, and we are intimately familiar with all of the ways that domestic violence charges can impact your life.
Domestic violence charges can impact divorce proceedings in a variety of different ways. For example, allegations of domestic violence may provide grounds for your spouse to seek a fault-based divorce. While New Jersey allows for “no-fault” divorce filings, it is also among the limited number of states that allow spouses to file for divorce on fault-based grounds.
Regardless of whether your spouse files for a fault-based or no-fault divorce, allegations of domestic violence can lead to significant challenges with regard to:
If you are unmarried and have children, or if you are divorced and currently have custody or visitation rights, allegations of domestic violence can impact your right to spend time with your children as well. Your partner or former spouse may be able to seek additional custody rights based on the allegations against you, and, depending on their severity, it is possible that you could be considered an “unfit” parent.
While these consequences are obviously very severe, they are far from the only consequences of facing accusations of domestic violence in New Jersey. In addition to a temporary restraining order (TRO), which the judge can issue without providing you with notice or the opportunity to be heard, you can also face a permanent restraining order following a Domestic Violence Hearing. A permanent domestic violence restraining order can include terms such as:
Critically, domestic violence restraining order proceedings are entirely separate from criminal prosecutions for domestic violence. Domestic violence restraining orders are issued in civil court in response to complaints filed by alleged victims. This means that you can face a domestic violence restraining order even if you are not convicted of a domestic violence offense in criminal court. In fact, restraining order proceedings move much more quickly than criminal cases, so you will need to defend against the alleged victim’s request for a domestic violence restraining order while your criminal case is pending.
Yes, but only in certain circumstances. Under New Jersey law, the police must make an arrest when they receive a domestic violence complaint if:
Even if the police aren’t required to make an arrest, they can still make a discretionary arrest based on the circumstances presented. Often, if there is any question about what has happened, the police will make an arrest out of caution to protect the victim.
If you have been arrested for domestic violence in New Jersey, this does not mean that you are guilty. But it does mean that you are facing an uphill battle. A domestic violence arrest can have immediate consequences, and it will be up to you to prove that your arrest was unwarranted.
When the police respond to a domestic violence call and both individuals are injured, the police must examine the circumstances at hand to decide who to arrest. When doing so, they will consider factors such as:
While the police usually get it right, sometimes they do not. Therefore, if you were arrested for domestic violence, you should promptly speak with a New Jersey domestic violence lawyer to determine what options you have available.
Even if you believe that you are guilty of an act of domestic violence, an experienced defense attorney may be able to have the charges either reduced or dismissed against you. Helmer, Conley and Kasselman has many former assistant prosecutors, some of whom were police officers before they were attorneys, with hundreds of years of combined law enforcement experience, which is useful in knowing how to defend you in a domestic violence case.
Yes. The judge can require you to undergo a psychiatric evaluation as part of your sentence, among other penalties. The judge may order you to participate in anger management counseling, obtain alcohol or drug addiction treatment, and participate in other treatment programs as well. If the judge orders you to undergo evaluation or receive treatment and you refuse to comply, this can lead to additional penalties.
No. Living together is not a requirement for New Jersey prosecutors to pursue domestic violence charges. Under New Jersey law, committing an assault against, harassing, or committing another criminal act against a boyfriend, girlfriend, or parent of a shared child constitutes domestic violence.
What if the alleged victim claims to be your boyfriend or girlfriend but isn’t? While this might help you avoid the additional penalties that apply in domestic violence cases, you can still face a conviction for the underlying assault or other crime. As a result, you must assert a comprehensive defense, and you will need to have an experienced New Jersey domestic violence lawyer on your side.
Since New Jersey prosecutors aggressively pursue domestic violence charges, trying to defend yourself or thinking you can talk your way out of it can be a catastrophic mistake. Fighting these charges requires the help of a New Jersey domestic violence lawyer who has the experience and skill to prepare a thorough and aggressive defense in a very short amount of time.
At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., our domestic violence attorneys are available on an emergency basis to immediately get to work handling such matters. Our team has more than 600 years of combined experience and a track record of positive outcomes for those accused of domestic violence. Call us at 877-435-6371 or contact us online today to discuss your situation in confidence.
Don’t let your rights be jeopardized.