Have you been arrested on suspicion of domestic violence in New Jersey? If so, you need to get trusted legal representation as soon as possible. New Jersey courts are tough on domestic violence cases. What started as a small argument or simple misunderstanding can spiral into serious problems for you when criminal charges are brought. The potential consequences of a conviction could follow you for life.
At Keith Oliver Criminal Law, our experienced New Jersey domestic violence lawyers have years of experience fighting for the rights of people like you. We will take every opportunity to fight for the charges against you to be dropped or reduced. Contact our firm today to discuss the details of your case in a free consultation.
How a New Jersey Domestic Violence Attorney Can Help You After an Arrest
If you are arrested on suspicion of domestic violence in New Jersey, you need to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Keith Oliver Criminal Law, our seasoned New Jersey domestic violence defense lawyers can help by:
- Arguing to have your bail amount reduced or have you released from police custody on your own recognizance
- Investigating your case to determine the nature of the evidence against you and identify evidence that can help your defense
- Working to have questionable evidence excluded from the prosecution’s case
- Uncovering any procedural errors, such as illegal searches or other police misconduct, that could negate some or all charges against you
- Identifying witnesses who can testify on your behalf and cross-examining witnesses called by the prosecution in court
- Fighting every step of the way for the best possible outcome in your case, whether that means a dismissal, reduced charges, or minimum sentence
To get started building a defense in your case, contact us today. We’ll review the details of your case for free and walk you through your options.
Understanding New Jersey Domestic Violence Laws
New Jersey law defines domestic violence as actual or threatened abuse of a physical, sexual, emotional, or financial nature perpetrated by an individual against someone with whom they currently have or previously had an intimate relationship. This means the relationship between the alleged offender and the alleged victim is paramount in a domestic violence case.
Under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, a person may be considered a victim of domestic violence if they:
- Are at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor (unemancipated minors may not be considered domestic violence victims but may be considered victims of other criminal offenses)
- Have been subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, current household member, former household member, or current or former dating partner
- Have been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has or expects to have a child in common, regardless of the victim’s age
- Have been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship, regardless of the victim’s age
In a domestic violence case, the prosecution must be able to prove that a domestic violence offense occurred and that the alleged offender has or had an intimate relationship with the alleged victim.
Importantly, the New Jersey legal code calls for mandatory arrests in certain domestic violence cases. Under state law, police officers must take alleged domestic violence offenders into custody when:
- There is evidence of injuries caused by domestic violence, including physical marks, blood, or other signs that a victim has been hurt.
- There is already an active warrant calling for the alleged offender’s arrest.
- The alleged offender has violated the terms of a restraining order.
- The alleged offender used a weapon in the act of committing domestic violence.
Keep in mind that you can still be arrested on suspicion of domestic violence even if none of the above elements are present. New Jersey police officers have the authority to make domestic violence arrests at their discretion.
Common Charges Related to Domestic Violence
Here are some common charges our criminal defense attorneys see in the domestic violence cases we handle:
- Domestic assault – Domestic assault involves attempting to cause, threatening to cause, or knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person.
- Domestic battery – Domestic battery involves harming someone with offensive physical contact, either intentionally or with unlawful recklessness.
- Endangering the welfare of a child – These offenses occur when someone who has responsibility for a child engages in abusive or neglectful conduct toward the child, including physical assault, sexual abuse, or abandonment.
- Stalking – Domestic stalking involves purposefully or knowingly engaging in conduct directed at a specific individual that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety, fear for the safety of another, or suffer emotional distress.
- Kidnapping – Domestic kidnapping involves unlawfully removing someone from the place where they are found or confining someone with the intent to hold them for ransom or use them as a hostage.
- Sexual assault – Domestic sexual assault involves engaging in penetrative sexual contact with another person through physical force or coercion or with a victim who is physically or mentally incapacitated.
- False imprisonment – Domestic false imprisonment involves knowingly and unlawfully restraining someone to “interfere substantially” with their liberty.
- Lewdness – Domestic lewdness involves engaging in a lewd or offensive act, such as exposing oneself, while knowing or reasonably expecting to be seen by another, non-consenting person.
- Criminal sexual contact – Domestic criminal sexual contact involves intentionally touching or forcing a victim to touch the victim’s or the accused’s intimate body parts, either directly or through clothing.
- Criminal restraint – Domestic criminal restraint involves unlawfully restraining someone in a condition of “involuntary servitude” or in circumstances that expose them to the risk of “serious bodily injury.”
- Criminal trespass – Domestic criminal trespass involves unlawfully entering someone else’s property or remaining on the property without permission.
- Burglary – Domestic burglary involves unlawfully entering someone else’s property with the intention of committing a crime, whether or not the alleged offender actually succeeds in committing the crime.
- Harassment – Domestic harassment involves communicating with someone anonymously, at extremely inconvenient hours, in “offensively coarse language,” or in a manner “likely to cause annoyance or alarm.” Threatening or committing offensive touching and engaging in repeated acts intended to alarm or annoy the victim are also considered forms of harassment.
New Jersey Domestic Violence Penalties
New Jersey uses the term “disorderly persons offense” for a misdemeanor and “indictable offense” for a felony. Depending on the circumstances, domestic violence offenses may be charged as either disorderly persons offenses or indictable offenses. Possible penalties for domestic violence convictions in New Jersey include:
- Disorderly persons offenses – Fines, probation, mandatory anger management classes, and up to six months in jail
- Fourth-degree indictable offenses – Up to 18 months in state prison
- Third-degree indictable offenses – Three to five years in prison
- Second-degree indictable offenses – Five to 10 years in prison
- First-degree indictable offenses – 10 to 20 years in prison
Under federal law, a person may also be legally prohibited from purchasing firearms after a domestic violence conviction.
Many domestic violence cases also involve no-contact or restraining orders. Judges often issue temporary restraining orders at the beginning of domestic violence case proceedings. Final restraining orders, which permanently prohibit convicted offenders from making contact with victims, may also be issued when cases are concluded.
Common Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges
Here are some common defenses our firm has successfully used in domestic violence cases in New Jersey:
- You are innocent – If you were not present when the alleged domestic violence occurred, we can work to help you establish a credible alibi. If you were present, we can work to uncover evidence that shows the victim’s version of the story is untrue.
- It was an accident – In some cases, we may argue that the injury was the result of an unintentional mistake.
- It was self-defense – If you intentionally injured the victim while trying to protect yourself or someone else, we can argue you acted in self-defense.
- The police made a mistake – If the police failed to adhere to proper procedures during an arrest, search, investigation, or interrogation, it may be possible to have the charges dropped.
At Keith Oliver Criminal Law, we explore every possible angle as we investigate your case and work to craft a strong defense. Our goal is to resolve your legal matter quickly and with the least possible impact on your life.
Can Domestic Violence Charges Be Dropped?
Yes, domestic violence charges can be dropped in New Jersey. However, the process of dropping these charges is complex and subject to many restrictions.
As soon as domestic violence charges are filed in court, it is up to the state prosecutor to decide how to proceed. This is true even when victims change their minds and take back their stories. If the prosecution determines there is enough evidence against you, they have the authority to continue pursuing charges with or without the cooperation of the victim.
Your best shot at getting domestic violence charges dropped in New Jersey is to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Tips for Protecting Your Rights If You’ve Been Arrested
You may feel powerless during and after a domestic violence arrest. For many people, it can feel like you’re presumed guilty rather than innocent. Still, there are steps you can take to protect your legal rights:
- Remain calm and quiet, and follow any instructions you receive from the police.
- Try to remember as many details about the arrest as you can, including the names, badge numbers, and conduct of your arresting officers.
- If the police attempt to interrogate you, do not volunteer any information apart from your name and address.
- Politely inform the police of your decision to exercise your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and wait to speak with a defense attorney.
- Do not discuss what happened with anyone until you can talk to an attorney.
- Do not post about what happened, your arrest, or your case on social media.