Domestic Violence in New Jersey – Penalties, Charges, Degrees & More

Domestic violence is one of the most underreported crimes in New Jersey. The offenses that constitute “domestic violence” often involve assault and other violent acts committed against other household members or romantic or dating partners. In many cases, these cases can result in criminal charges and may involve restraining orders and other protective orders that could kick the defendant out of the house and lead to other restrictions.

The New Jersey domestic violence attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent defendants accused of domestic violence crimes in New Jersey. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing the accused, fighting to protect their rights, and seeking to have cases dropped and dismissed to keep our clients out of jail. For a free legal consultation on your case, call our attorneys today at (609) 616-4956.

What Constitutes Domestic Violence in NJ?

Domestic violence charges are not specific charges called “domestic violence” or “domestic abuse.” Instead, New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act creates protected classes of individuals, and if certain crimes are committed against those individuals, the offense is considered a domestic violence offense. When a crime qualifies as a domestic violence crime, it opens up additional penalties and options for the judge to grant protective orders and order additional penalties and restrictions on the defendant.

The protected class of people primarily includes current or former dating partners or spouses. In addition, these laws also seek to protect current or former household members, which could include other adults in the household. The victim of a crime must be an adult or an emancipated minor – child victims are handled under other laws dealing with child abuse.

For a crime to qualify as a domestic violence offense, it must be one of the crimes that are typically aimed at one of these protected individuals. Most of these covered crimes are violent offenses, such as murder, assault, terroristic threats, and kidnapping. Additionally, crimes like stalking, harassment, burglary, criminal trespass, and vandalism (criminal mischief/destruction of property) would also be covered. Lastly, sexual crimes and crimes of sexual violence, such as lewdness, criminal sexual contact, and sexual assault could also qualify as domestic violence crimes.

Degrees of Domestic Violence Crimes in NJ

The degree of crime you could be charged with for committing a domestic violence offense changes based on the specific underlying offense you are accused of committing. The penalties vary across the board for these crimes.

Crimes in New Jersey are either classified as “indictable crimes,” which are the equivalent of “felonies” in other states, and “disorderly persons offenses,” which are the equivalent of “misdemeanors” in other states. Disorderly persons offenses are classified as either disorderly persons offenses or petty disorderly persons offenses – an even lighter offense. Indictable crimes are graded as fourth through first degree crimes with first degree being the most severe.

More violent and invasive crimes like murder, kidnapping, and aggravated assault are classified among the highest level of crime. More minor crimes like criminal mischief or criminal trespass might be graded as low-level disorderly persons offenses, depending on the circumstances.

Penalties for Domestic Violence Offenses in NJ

Once you determine the grading of the offense you are charged with, you can determine the potential penalties for that crime. In New Jersey, sentences are given as a potential range of penalties in the statute, and it is up to a judge to determine the final sentence. There are general rules that the judge should follow that dictate what the average sentence should be, but defendants with a history of other crimes – or a history of domestic violence – might be more likely to face jail time and heightened penalties for their alleged crimes.

In New Jersey, each level of crime has a presumptive range of fines and jail time:

  • Petty disorderly persons offenses carry up to 30 days in jail and fines up to $500.
  • Disorderly persons offenses carry up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000.
  • Fourth degree crimes carry up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $10,000.
  • Third degree crimes carry 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
  • Second degree crimes carry 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.
  • First degree crimes carry 10-20 years in prison and fines up to $200,000.

In most cases of domestic violence, you could also face additional penalties in the form of a restraining order.

Restraining Order Penalties for New Jersey Domestic Violence Crimes

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1990 authorizes judges to issue protective orders (a.k.a., restraining orders) to keep alleged victims of domestic violence safe from abuse. In most cases, these orders can be granted on an emergency basis without a chance for the defendant to be heard before the order is granted. However, the defendant must be given a hearing soon after – usually within 10 days – where the judge will decide if the restraining order should continue or whether it can expire.

Restraining orders for domestic violence can do any of the following in the name of protecting the victim from future violence:

  • Kick the defendant out of a shared home
  • Award temporary child custody of shared children
  • Award temporary spousal support
  • Bar contact with the alleged victim or their family
  • Bar additional crimes against the alleged victim
  • Order a defendant to stay away from the alleged victim’s home, work, or school
  • Order the defendant to surrender any firearms they own

In some cases, the terms of the restraining order stop the defendant from doing things that are already illegal, such as orders not to commit a crime against the victim. Other terms of a restraining order stop the defendant from doing things they would otherwise be able to do, such as access their own home.

Violating a restraining order is an independent crime in New Jersey. If you do violate the restraining order, you can face criminal penalties for the violation as well as any penalties you face for additional crimes committed in violation of the order.

Either side can ask a judge to modify or terminate the order, and the alleged victim can also allow a temporary restraining order to expire naturally, allowing the parties to reconcile or get back together. Talk to a lawyer for help fighting a domestic violence restraining order.

Call Our NJ Domestic Violence Lawyers Today

The New Jersey domestic violence attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent the accused and fight to get charges dropped and dismissed. Domestic violence charges can often result in severe penalties – some without immediate due process – in the name of protecting the alleged victim. To protect your rights and help fight unfounded charges, contact our law offices today to schedule a free legal consultation. Our number is (609) 616-4956.

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