Contrary to what many people might think, domestic violence is not a single crime or offense in New Jersey. Rather, domestic violence is a classification of offenses that occur under certain circumstances. In most cases, domestic violence occurs between romantic partners, like spouses or even unmarried partners. Domestic violence is treated with particular contempt by both courts and the general public. People often view domestic violence defendants as serial abusers who hurt those close to them, even if the evidence suggesting so is weak. Domestic violence charges should be handled very carefully as they can lead to harsh and extensive penalties.
Defendants facing domestic violence charges are confronted with an uphill legal battle. Prosecutors, law enforcement, courts, and juries show extraordinarily little sympathy or understanding for these defendants because of the magnitude of the charges. However, all defendants, whether charged with a seriously violent crime or a minor offense, deserve a fair trial and an impartial jury. The success of your case will depend on a great number of factors, but our team will work to make sure that, no matter what the outcome, your trial is fair.
Your domestic violence case should be handled by a team with the skills and experience to fight your charges most effectively. Our Ocean City domestic violence defense lawyers are here to help any way they can. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to arrange a free, confidential legal consultation about your charges.
Charges for “Domestic Violence” in Ocean City
In order for a crime to count as “domestic violence” in New Jersey, there must be a particular crime, a particular type of actor, and a particular type of victim. New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 lists the crimes that count as “domestic violence.” They are:
- Criminal mischief
- Criminal restraint
- Criminal sexual contact
- Criminal trespass
- False imprisonment
- Sexual assault
- Terroristic threats
- Criminal coercion
- Contempt of a domestic violence order
- Any other crime that risks serious bodily injury or death
These crimes can only count as a case of domestic violence if committed by an adult or an emancipated minor.
The definition of “adult” is clear enough: anyone over 18 years old. An emancipated minor is someone who is still under 18, but is legally treated like an adult. This includes people under 18 who are married, in the military, have a child of their own, or were declared emancipated by a court or government agency.
In order for one of these crimes to become a crime of domestic violence, there must be some relation between the victim and the actor. If the actor and victim are both either adults or emancipated minors, these crimes are domestic violence crimes when the actor and victim:
- Are married;
- Were formerly married; or
- Are members of the same household.
For a victim of any age, these crimes are domestic violence when the actor and victim:
- Have a child in common;
- Are expecting a child together; or
- Have dated.
Basically, these laws are designed to protect romantic partners from violent crimes their current or former partners might commit. Additionally, under this definition, adults who live together are also protected under the definition of domestic violence. These laws are also gender-neutral and could apply to male or female aggressors and male or female victims. Call our Ocean City domestic violence defense attorneys for assistance with your case.
Warrantless Arrests for Domestic Violence Defendants in Ocean City
In any criminal case, the defendant is usually arrested and brought into custody by the police. Arrests are required by law to be executed under a valid arrest warrant. The warrant must be based on sufficient probable cause indicating that a suspect has committed a crime, and an impartial magistrate or judge must issue the warrant. Despite the grand importance of the warrant rule, there are numerous exceptions. One such exception applies specifically to domestic violence suspects.
According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-21, the police may arrest a domestic violence suspect without a warrant if certain conditions are present. The police may perform a warrantless arrest if the supposed victim shows signs of injury, the suspect is in violation of a protective or restraining order keeping them away from the supposed victim, or the police have probable cause to think a weapon has been used in an act of domestic violence.
Law enforcement and courts do not like the idea of waiting for a warrant to arrest a domestic violence suspect. In many cases, while the police are waiting on a warrant, an abuser might continue to harm their spouse or partner. Courts want to protect victims of crimes, even if that protection comes at a cost to the defendant’s rights.
If you have recently been arrested on domestic violence charges, contact our Ocean City domestic violence defense lawyers for help. We can help you fight your charges and clear your name.
Protective or Restraining Orders for Domestic Violence Defendants in Ocean City
A common legal tool used in domestic violence cases that further protects alleged victims is a protective or restraining order. These orders require that the defendant always keep a certain physical distance from the alleged victim, thus ensuring their safety from future harm. These orders are often imposed at the beginning of a trial before the defendant has had a fair hearing. In a way, the orders penalize the defendant before they are ever found guilty.
Protective orders require that the defendant keep away from the alleged victim for the duration of the trial. However, things become complicated when the defendant and victim live together. In these kinds of situations, the defendant may be forced to leave their own home.
Protective orders can also extend to any friends or family members of the alleged victim. This is problematic when the defendant and alleged victim share children. A defendant could be prohibited from seeing their kids under a protective order.
These orders are commonly imposed at the beginning of a trial and usually last until the trial is over. In such cases, the orders are referred to as temporary restraining orders or TROs. If a defendant is found guilty, a TRO could be made a permanent part of a final sentence, meaning the defendant can never see their spouse or possibly their kids again.
Protective and restraining orders can be very burdensome, but they can also be lifted with the help of a skilled attorney. Our Ocean City domestic violence defense attorneys can help you challenge any unfair or unnecessary order.
Penalties for Domestic Violence Crimes in Ocean City
New Jersey takes violent crime very seriously, and each domestic violence crime has very high penalties. On top of that, in an effort to protect domestic violence victims, the State legislature has added penalties for domestic violence crimes.
First, New Jersey’s Domestic Violence Procedures Manual, issued by the New Jersey Supreme Court and Attorney General’s offices, outlines the procedures for domestic violence cases. This includes mandatory arrests for any domestic violence crime. Police must still follow the rules for arrests, including having probable cause – but police have no discretion to refuse to arrest a domestic violence suspect.
Additionally, police can immediately seize the suspect’s guns. This means the immediate seizure of any guns on the premises. Even if the suspect has a weapon somewhere else, the police can seize those weapons as well. The Domestic Violence Act also allows the seizure of any firearm purchaser ID cards. If the police have trouble seizing these weapons, they are permitted under the Act to get a warrant to seize the guns.
After arrest and weapon seizure, courts may issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the suspect. These can be granted without notice or the opportunity to be heard on the part of the suspect. It is not until after the order is already issued that the defendant gets their chance to defend themselves. Violating a TRO or permanent restraining order can mean immediate arrest and additional penalties.
On top of these, you still need to face the original charges. The domestic violence crimes listed above are all serious offenses. They range from capital offenses down to disorderly persons offenses. No matter how serious the crime is, there are possibilities of fines and jail time. For example, even a fourth-degree crime, the lowest level before disorderly persons offenses, has a maximum of 18 months in prison. More serious crimes like sexual assault have a minimum of 25 years in prison.
Get in touch with our Ocean City domestic violence defense lawyers for more information.
How a Domestic Violence Conviction in Ocean City Could Affect Your Gun Rights
The consequences of a domestic violence conviction do not necessarily stop at the sentence handed down by the judge. In New Jersey, a defendant convicted of a domestic violence-related offense will be prohibited from owning, possessing, or purchasing a gun or firearm.
The right to own a gun is guaranteed to every American under the United States Constitution. However, guns are very dangerous weapons and are subject to strict government regulations. In many states, including New Jersey, certain people may be restricted from owning a gun, temporarily or permanently. People convicted of domestic violence offenses, especially violent ones, will be restricted from gun ownership.
The restrictions do not necessarily begin upon conviction. In many cases, a person will become restricted from gun ownership when a protective order is issued against them. If there are firearms present at the scene when the police arrest you for domestic violence charges, they will confiscate those weapons immediately. Upon conviction, a defendant is required to surrender all their firearms and any firearms purchaser identification cards immediately.
If you are facing a trial for domestic violence charges, your gun rights might be heavily restricted, perhaps until the end of your trial or perhaps indefinitely. Call our Ocean City domestic violence defense attorneys for help fighting your charges and protecting your rights.
Our Ocean City Domestic Violence Defense Attorneys Can Help
Contact the Law Office of John J. Zarych today if you have been accused of domestic violence. Our attorneys can help you fight your charges and try to get them reduced or dismissed. Call today for a free, confidential consultation at (609) 616-4956.