Domestic violence and abuse accusations are very serious and an unfortunate reality for many people. Not only can an allegation of domestic violence lead to serious consequences, it can irreparably damage your life. Domestic abuse can negatively affect entire families and we provide support and services to both those who have been the victim of domestic abuse and those who have been accused of domestic abuse. We know that domestic abuse is never acceptable and will help to protect you and your family from domestic abuse by utilizing our experience and knowledge and excellent representation. However, we also know that because of the nature of these types of cases the police can often be overly aggressive, even when there is not enough information or evidence to support an arrest. Additionally, judges can issue restraining orders that can prevent you from seeing your significant other or even going to your own home.
If you have been the victim of domestic abuse or have been arrested for domestic assault or have been served with a restraining order for domestic violence, then you need an experienced Atlantic City criminal attorney by your side. The lawyers at the Law Firm of John J. Zarych will fight to protect your rights in court and will provide a vigorous defense against assault and domestic violence charges.
What is Domestic Violence?
According to the New Jersey Attorney General’s report issued in late 2014, there were over 62,000 domestic violence cases in 2014. While this may reflect a slight decrease from previous years, the number of domestic violence cases is still a problem throughout the state. Under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence statutes, “domestic violence” means the occurrence of one or more acts inflicted upon a person protected under this act by an adult or an emancipated minor.
However, even if one or more of these crimes is committed it does not mean that the accused has committed domestic violence against another, but will merely be the basis for a complaint.
Who is Protected Under the New Jersey Domestic Violence Act?
A victim of domestic violence is any person who is eighteen years or older or who is an emancipated minor and who has been subjected to domestic violence by:
- A spouse
- A former Spouse
- Any person who is currently a household member
- A person who was at the time a household member
Additionally, the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 provides that a those who have a child in common with another, a woman who is pregnant, or a person who is in a dating relationship with another can be subjected to domestic abuse
What Can the Victim of Domestic Violence Do to Protect Themselves?
Under New Jersey law, a law enforcement officer is required to arrest a suspect and sign a criminal complaint where: a person claims to have been the victim of domestic violence inflicted by the suspect, or when the office has sufficient evidence to believe that such violence occurred. Additionally, an officer must make an arrest when the victim shows signs of injury, where there is an arrest warrant, where the suspect has violated a domestic violence restraining order, or where the officer has sufficient cause to believe that a weapon was used in committing a domestic violence crime.
If a person has been the victim of domestic violence, they will often file a domestic violence restraining order to protect themselves from the offender. A restraining order is an order issued by a court that is intended to protect the victim of domestic violence. In domestic violence cases a judge can issue an emergency restraining order which can:
- Prohibit the defendant from returning to the scene of the domestic violence, which may include their home.
- Require the search and seizure of any place where the judge has reason to believe a weapon is located
- Bar the defendant from possessing a firearm or other deadly weapon specific under law
Emergency restraining orders are temporary, and the judge can issue one without the other party present, however, if the injured party wants to have a full restraining order put in place they may choose to do so, and the court must hold a full hearing with both the plaintiff and the defendant within ten days. At a restraining order hearing the judge will determine if the plaintiff has proven the allegations in the domestic abuse complaint and if satisfied a judge can issue an order that can:
- prohibit the defendant from abusing the victim
- grant exclusive possession of the residence to the plaintiff
- provide for temporary child custody and parenting time
- require the defendant to compensate the plaintiff for losses caused by the defendant
- require the defendant to receive counseling or a psychiatric evaluation
- prohibit the defendant from entering the plaintiff’s residence, workplace, or school
- prohibit the defendant from contacting the plaintiff
- require the defendant to pay the rent or mortgage on the plaintiff’s residence
- provide for the temporary possession of specified property, and
- and prohibit the defendant from possessing a firearm.
The court enforces these orders by making it a crime in the fourth degree to violate any of the provisions which can carry an 18-month prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.
Post-Arrest Procedure in Domestic Violence Cases
After you have been arrested for domestic violence, you will be taken to the local police station for what is known as the booking process. During the booking process, the police will take your photograph, fingerprint you, collect your biographical information, and inventory any items you had on your person at the time of your arrest. Following the booking process, you will be placed into the police holding cell until a bail hearing is scheduled.
A bail hearing occurs before a judge usually within 24 hours of a person’s booking. If you are arrested on the weekend or at a busy time, however, it could take as long as 72 hours for a bail hearing to be scheduled. While the hearing you will face is often still referred to as a bail hearing, New Jersey actually virtually eliminated the use of cash bail in the court system back in 2017. Now, the judge at these hearings decides whether someone will be released based on a balancing test, rather that whether or not that person has enough money to pay bond.
An experienced bail hearing defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych will know how to make the best case to the judge that you should be released to your home and not held in detention while the underlying criminal matter is resolved. Factors that the judge will take into account will be the nature and severity of the crime of domestic violence committed, whether you have a criminal history for domestic violence or other crimes, whether you have a place to stay away from the alleged victim until the matter can be resolved in court, and the strength of ties you have to the local community. The judge can choose to release you on your own recognizance, or without any conditions, release you with conditions such as attending counseling, or detain you until the underlying matter is resolved.
Plea Bargaining and Trial Defense in Domestic Violence Cases
The next step in your case will depend on the crime of domestic violence with which you were charged. If you are charged with a disorderly persons offense like simple assault, your case will be handled through the municipal court system. If you are charged with indictable offense like most aggravated assault charges, your case will be handled through the superior court.
For disorderly person offenses, an arraignment will occur in the municipal court where you will be asked whether you want to plea guilty or not guilty the charges against you. A skilled criminal defense lawyer is likely to advise you to plead not guilty at this point so they can assess the strength of the case and begin negotiating with the prosecutor. Your lawyer will try to get you into some sort of pre-trial diversion program where the charges will be dropped if you complete the program successfully. If this is not possible, they will try to work out a deal where you will plead guilty to the charges in exchange for a reduced sentence of some sort.
If you do not wish to accept a plea deal, our skilled trial lawyers at The Offices of John J. Zarych are ready and able to fight your case at trial. Trials in the municipal court are always conducted before a judge. There is no right to a jury trial in municipal court.
On the other hand, if you are charged with an indictable offense the prosecutor must first take the case against you before a grand jury. They will present all evidence and witnesses to the grand jury and the grand jury decided if there is enough there to issue an indictment. If an indictment is issued, you will be arraigned in the superior court.
For indictable offenses, pre-trial intervention programs are not usually available. However, your lawyer may still be able to work out a deal with the prosecutor where you plead to a lesser charge or plead guilty to your charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence. Keep in mind that in domestic violence cases, the prosecutor may not be willing to make a deal unless the alleged victim consents to it.
If you wish to take your case to trial, you will be able to choose to have a trail before a jury if your peers. That jury must vote unanimously to find you guilty in order for you to be convicted of the charge against you. Our lawyers can work to convince the jury that there is reasonable doubt about whether or not you actually committed the crime alleged.
Our Atlantic City Domestic Abuse Defense Lawyers Can Help
If you have been arrested for domestic violence and assault you could be facing serious penalties and consequences. The lawyers of the Law Firm of John J. Zarych can fight to protect you from the consequences of accusations of this type and fight to protect your name and reputation. To schedule a no-cost case evaluation, call (609) 616-4956 today or contact us online.