What is Domestic Violence and how do I file a complaint?
Filing a Complaint for Domestic Violence Attorneys Brick and Sea Girt NJ
Domestic violence may be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that are intended to influence another person.
The United States Department of Justice defines domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner or former intimate partner. Domestic violence may be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that are intended to influence another person. This includes behaviors that are meant to intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure or wound.
As a crime, domestic violence can take the form of homicide, assault, terrorist threat, kidnapping, false imprisonment, sexual assault, lewdness, criminal trespass or mischief, harassment, or burglary upon any person who is 18 years old or over, or is an emancipated minor, a former spouse, as well as any other person who is a present or former household member, in addition to a person with whom the victim has a child in common with.
Police have Discretion to Decide on an Arrest
In New Jersey, as with many other states, there are very strict domestic violence laws. As outlined in the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, if there are any signs of physical injuries, the police are obligated to make an arrest of the alleged abuser. However, even in the absence of independent witnesses and without physical injuries, police have the discretion to decide to arrest the abuser. Furthermore, police must respond to all calls from a victim or from a bystander and are required to give the victim information about their rights and to help them. In addition, the police must write up a report any time they have been called to the scene of an act of domestic violence.
Filing a Domestic Violence Complaint
In the State of New Jersey, a domestic violence complaint may be filed at the family court in the county the victim lives in. After the complaint has been filed, the victim will be interviewed by a probation officer as well as a representative from the battered women’s program. They have the responsibility of explaining the court process and advising the victim about what services are available to them. Then the complaint will be processed and the case heard as soon as possible before a judge/domestic violence hearing officer. Should the judge/domestic violence hearing officer feel the complaint falls within the guidelines of domestic violence, the victim will be provided protection under a Temporary Restraining Order or TRO. Though the provisions contained in this type of court order are based upon the circumstances and vary from case to case, it is the victim’s responsibility to provide a copy of the TRO to their local police department. After the TRO is issued by the court the case will be scheduled to return to court within 10 days for a final hearing.
At the final hearing, the Judge/domestic violence hearing officer will hear relevant testimony from both the victim and the abuser. The court will then decide whether an act of domestic violence occurred and what relief should be granted to the victim. If the court finds that domestic violence actually occurred, a Final Domestic Violence Restraining Order, or FRO, will be issued on behalf of the victim. A copy will be given to both the victim and the abuser. Once again the victim must bring the order to the local police department to ensure that they are aware of it. Provided that both parties obey the terms, there is no time limit on how long a FRO lasts.
Withdrawing a Restraining Order
In cases where the two parties decide to get back together, the victim must return to court and withdraw the restraining order. Through an interview, the court will make sure that the victim is not being forced or coerced to withdraw the FRO. The court can then dismiss the complaint if it is satisfied that it is being withdrawn without fear or threats from the abuser. The victim is responsible for bringing a copy of the dismissal order to their local police department.
Violating a Restraining Order
If the restraining order is violated, it is highly advised that the victim go to the local police department or municipal court and sign a criminal “Contempt of a Restraining Order” complaint. This complaint should state clearly how the order was violated. Armed with this the police can then locate the abuser so that they can be arrested. This case then goes to the family court and the judge, who will hear testimony from both parties and will decide guilt or innocence and order the appropriate sentence or fine.
Being the victim or being accused of domestic violence is no small matter. In either case, it is recommended that you have the counsel of a qualified and experienced domestic violence attorney as soon as possible.