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Criminal Law: Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Convictions Have Many Severe Penalties. Let a New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer Protect Your Rights

Few New Jersey criminal charges can upend your life faster and more impactfully 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. 

Why We Believe We are the New Jersey Domestic Violence Law Firm for You

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 lawyer 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.

What Is Domestic Violence in New Jersey?

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:

  • Current and former spouses;
  • Other adults who are present or former members of the alleged attacker’s household;
  • Emancipated minors who are present or former members of the alleged attacker’s household;
  • Current and former boyfriends and girlfriends;
  • Parents of shared children; and,
  • Individuals with whom the alleged attacker expects to have a child if the attacker or the alleged victim is pregnant.

Domestic violence charges against a protected person can be based on any of the following criminal acts:

  • Homicide
  • Assault
  • Terroristic threats
  • Kidnapping
  • Criminal restraint
  • False imprisonment
  • Sexual assault
  • Criminal sexual contact
  • Lewdness
  • Criminal mischief
  • Burglary
  • Criminal trespass
  • Harassment
  • Stalking
  • Criminal coercion
  • Robbery
  • Contempt of a domestic violence order
  • Any crime involving risk of death or serious bodily injury
  • Cyber harassment

A New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer Will Help You Fight Severe Penalties 

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:

  • First-Degree Indictable Crimes – 10 years to life prison (depending on the crime charged) and a fine of up to $200,000.
  • Second-Degree Indictable Crimes – Five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 150,000.
  • Third-Degree Indictable Crimes – Three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
  • Fourth-Degree Indictable Crimes – Up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Disorderly Persons Offenses – Up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses – Up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

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:

  • Assault and Aggravated Assault – Assault charges in domestic violence cases can range from disorderly persons offenses to third-degree indictable offenses. Aggravated assault charges can be charged as high as a second-degree indictable offense.
  • Criminal Restraint – Criminal restraint is a third-degree indictable offense in all cases.
  • Criminal Trespass – Criminal trespass can be charged as a disorderly persons offense or a fourth-degree indictable offense.
  • False Imprisonment – False imprisonment is a disorderly persons offense in all cases.
  • Harassment – Harassment can be charged as a disorderly persons offense or a fourth-degree indictable offense.
  • Stalking – Stalking can be charged as either a third-degree or fourth-degree indictable offense.
  • Terroristic Threats – In domestic violence cases, the crime of making terroristic threats constitutes a third-degree indictable offense.

What Are the Additional Consequences of Facing a Domestic Violence Charge in New Jersey?

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:

  • Prohibiting You from Entering Your Home – If you and the alleged victim are currently residing together, your domestic violence restraining order could prohibit you from entering your own home.
  • Prohibiting You from Visiting the Alleged Victim’s School, Work or Residence – Your domestic violence restraining order could also prohibit you from visiting the alleged victim’s school, place of employment, place of residence and other locations that he or she visits regularly.
  • Prohibiting You from Possessing Guns or Other Weapons – Frequently, judges will include terms in domestic violence restraining orders that prohibit alleged abusers from possessing guns or other weapons. The police may also search your home and seize any weapons they find.
  • Restricting Your Parenting Time or Suspending Your Child Custody Rights – If you have children, the judge may also restrict your parenting time rights, or you could potentially lose your custody rights entirely on a temporary basis.
  • Prohibiting You from Engaging in Various Other Forms of Conduct – Domestic violence restraining orders in New Jersey also commonly include prohibitions on stalking, threatening harm and other forms of conduct targeting the alleged victim.
  • Requiring Specific Evaluations and/or Treatments - You may be required to have a psychiatric evaluation and treatment, undergo alcohol and/or drug evaluation and treatment, attend weekly anger management counseling and pay for the alleged victim’s attorney’s fees.

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.

Charged with Domestic Violence? Call a New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer Today

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.

 

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