Domestic violence, spousal abuse, child abuse, and other crimes of violence within the home are a constant source of stress and fear in many homes. Because of this, police, prosecutors, and courts take these charges very seriously. If you were charged with a domestic violence crime, you should hire an attorney.
Not only can you face serious penalties for the underlying crime, but because it was committed against a family member or dating partner, there are additional consequences. Talk to an attorney today to understand the potential charges against you, and the legal strategies our lawyers may be able to use to fight against them. For your free consultation, contact the Gloucester City domestic violence defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956.
Definition of “Domestic Violence” Charges in Gloucester City
New Jersey has special laws, aimed specifically at seeking out and punishing domestic violence. While there is no specific crime of “domestic violence,” many other crimes can become domestic violence crimes when committed against certain victims. Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-19, the Domestic Violence Act of 1991, these crimes may qualify as “domestic violence” crimes:
- Terroristic threats,
- Criminal restraint,
- False imprisonment,
- Sexual assault,
- Criminal sexual contact,
- Criminal mischief,
- Criminal trespass,
- Criminal coercion,
- Robbery, and
- Contempt of a domestic violence order.
In addition, any “other crime involving risk of death or serious bodily injury” can also count. This potentially includes reckless endangerment, reckless driving, or other crimes that place others in danger.
These crimes only qualify as “domestic violence” crimes when committed against particular victims, by particular actors. First, the actor can only commit a “crime of domestic violence” if he or she is over 18 or is an emancipated minor. This means that most minors cannot be charged with domestic violence crimes, though they can still be charged with the base crime (e.g. assault, terroristic threats, etc.).
Second, the victim must be part of the protected class of people under the Act. The act is designed to protect particular victims, including:
- Adults or emancipated minors married to the actor;
- Adults or emancipated minors who were married to the actor;
- Adults or emancipated minors who live in the same household as the actor;
- Anyone who has a child with the actor;
- Anyone expecting the actor’s child; or
- Anyone the actor has dated.
The law does not give details or requirements for what kind of dating must have occurred. This means that just having gone on a date should be enough to warrant protecting the victim as much as someone who was in an ongoing, romantic relationship with the actor. There is also no requirement that other adults in the household must be in a relationship with the victim, meaning this law can protect the parents of abusive adult children, roommates, or adult siblings that live in the same house.
These laws are also gender-neutral, and do not require female victims nor male actors, and could apply equally to any abuser and equally protect any victim.
Penalties for Domestic Violence Convictions in Gloucester City
Because these crimes are often ongoing issues, one instance of domestic violence could lead to another. Even if the specific instance that is reported to the police is not too serious, the victim could be at risk for retribution or further violence if the police do not intervene. Because of this, police are required to arrest the victim if the grounds for the arrest are valid. Usually, police have “discretion” to refuse to arrest someone for a suspected crime. However, for domestic violence cases, the arrest is mandatory.
In addition, police must also perform other tasks, including seizing any weapons the actor owns. Police also must inform the victim of their right to file for a protective order. These restraining orders can prevent you from accessing your home, may force you to give the victim access to money, and can prevent you from reclaiming your firearms.
In addition, you could face serious penalties for the crime itself. Because domestic violence crimes are based on other crimes, the penalties may vary. Most of the crimes that can become domestic violence crimes are serious violent or interpersonal crimes. They rank in one of the following levels of crime:
- First degree crimes carry potential prison time of 10-20 years and fines up to $200,000;
- Second degree crimes carry potential prison time of 5-10 years and fines up to $150,000;
- Third degree crimes carry potential prison time of 3-5 years and fines up to $15,000;
- Fourth degree crimes carry potential prison time of up to 18 months and fines up to $10,000; and
- Disorderly persons offenses carry a potential jail time of up to 6 months and fines up to $1,000.
Gloucester City Domestic Violence Defense Lawyers
If you were charged with a violent crime against a spouse, significant other, ex, or household member, your penalties could be increased. For a free consultation on your charges, contact the South Jersey criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych. For your free consultation, call our offices today at (609) 616-4956.