Domestic violence as defined by the New Jersey Criminal Code can incorporate a number of offenses from harassment, a petty disorderly persons offense, to murder, a crime of the first degree carrying a potential life sentence. South Jersey criminal lawyers report that victims of domestic violence include family members, spouses or former spouses, or individuals involved in dating relationships. Individuals falling outside that category, like neighbors who don’t like each other, cannot apply for relief under the Domestic Violence Act.
Domestic violence cases where the police or the alleged victim has signed a complaint may be prosecuted in either Superior Court if the complaint alleges an indictable offense or in Municipal Court if the complaint alleges a disorderly or petty disorderly persons offense. As in all criminal cases, a person accused in either municipal court or superior court of an act of domestic violence is presumed innocent unless his or her guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Regardless of whether a complaint is issued, a victim of domestic violence may apply to Superior Court for a Restraining Order against the alleged perpetrator. Unlike a criminal complaint, applications for Orders for Restraining are handled as civil proceedings. The Plaintiff, the person seeking the Restraining Order, must first appear before a Superior Court Judge who is charged with the decision of granting or denying the plaintiff’s request for a Temporary Restraining Order. The Judge hears only from the plaintiff. If the Judge determines that the plaintiff has set forth a probable cause basis that he or she is in need of protection of a Restraining Order, the Court will issue a Temporary Restraining Order barring the defendant from having any contact with the plaintiff and other persons, like parents or relatives, named in the Order.
Upon the issuance of the Temporary Restraining Order, the Court will schedule, usually within a week, a hearing on the application for a Final Restraining Order. At that hearing, the defendant will have his or her opportunity to testify and/or call witnesses. The burden of proof is on the Plaintiff who must prove by a preponderance of evidence that he or she has been the victim of domestic violence and needs the protection of a Final Restraining Order.
If a Final Restraining Order is issued, even though its issuance does not give the defendant a criminal record, its impact is substantial. In addition to barring the defendant from having contact with the plaintiff, the Court can impose a penalty of up to $500.00 dollars, order batterer’s counseling, establish support and visitation orders where the plaintiff and defendant have children in common, and order such other relief as it deems warranted. A person who is the recipient of a Final Restraining Order will have his or her name placed in a registry of Domestic Violence Offenders and in most circumstances will lose the right to own or use firearms. A person who violates the conditions of a Final Restraining Order will be prosecuted criminally.
South Jersey Criminal Lawyers at Agre & Jensen Offer Counsel in Domestic Violence Charges
At Agre & Jensen, our South Jersey criminal lawyers have represented both plaintiffs and defendants in domestic violence cases and realize the serious impact that these cases have on the lives of the people involved. As a Certified Criminal Trial Attorney, Robert N. Agre has also successfully represented many clients accused of criminal acts of domestic violence. We believe we can be of help to those of you facing these difficult times in your life. Contact our Haddonfield, New Jersey office at 856-428-7797 or contact us online. We represent clients throughout South Jersey and the Greater Philadelphia area.