Domestic violence crimes are taken extremely seriously in New Jersey. Unfortunately, that means that a simple spat between partners can quickly turn into a complicated legal matter if police are called. If you have been accused of committing domestic violence in Monmouth County, you need experienced legal representation. A Monmouth County domestic violence attorney from Keith Oliver Criminal Law can fight to protect your freedom, your reputation, and your future.
Our attorneys are highly experienced in handling domestic violence cases. We have the resources needed to fully explore every avenue to build a strong defense for you. Oftentimes, we are able to get these charges reduced or dropped altogether. When a plea deal is appropriate, we negotiate for the minimum penalties possible. At trial, we make sure our clients’ voices are heard.
Contact Keith Oliver Criminal Law today for a free initial consultation to learn more about what a Monmouth County domestic violence attorney can do to protect your rights.
How a Monmouth County Domestic Violence Attorney Can Help You After an Arrest
Do not wait to get legal advice after a domestic violence arrest. Although you may view the matter as something personal that can be worked out, the truth is it is now a criminal case. You need experienced legal representation from a qualified Monmouth County domestic violence attorney. At Keith Oliver Criminal Law, we can help by:
- Going over your charges and explaining possible outcomes so you know what to expect during your case
- Thoroughly investigating your case to recover evidence not provided by the prosecution to build your defense, as well as interviewing witnesses who have relevant testimony
- Testing the strength of the state’s case by filing motions to exclude evidence or to dismiss your charges
- Negotiating with prosecutors, if appropriate, to try to secure a plea deal that allows you to avoid the maximum consequences of a conviction
- Vigorously advocating on your behalf at trial to pursue a favorable verdict if you choose to fight to prove your innocence
Understanding New Jersey Domestic Violence Laws
In New Jersey, domestic violence is outlawed by the state’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. The act defines domestic violence as the occurrence of one or more of 19 specific criminal offenses upon a person protected by the statute, by a perpetrator who is at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor. An emancipated minor includes any person who is or has been married, has enlisted in military service, has or is expecting a child, or has been declared emancipated by the order of a court or administrative agency.
A person is considered protected by New Jersey’s domestic violence laws when they are also at least 18 years old, are an emancipated minor, or have a dating relationship with the alleged perpetrator. They must also have a qualifying relationship with the alleged perpetrator of domestic violence, which may include:
- Marriage, including couples who have separated or divorced
- Currently or previously having lived together in the same household
- Currently or previously having a dating, intimate, or sexual relationship
- Having a child together or expecting a child together when one of the parties is currently pregnant
Proving domestic violence requires showing that the alleged victim has one or more of the qualifying relationships with the alleged perpetrator and that the alleged perpetrator has committed one or more of the specific acts of domestic violence. Proving a case of domestic violence typically requires evidence such as:
- Photos of visible injuries on the alleged victim
- Medical records from the alleged victim’s treatment of their injuries
- Photos or video from the scene of the alleged incident, including surveillance video or cellphone camera footage of the incident itself
- Witness testimony
- Police records and arrest reports
What You Need to Know About Domestic Violence and Mandatory Arrest in New Jersey
In New Jersey, a law enforcement officer must arrest a suspected perpetrator of domestic violence when:
- The victim exhibits visible signs of injury from domestic violence, or the victim states that they have suffered an injury and other factors indicate that domestic violence has occurred.
- If both parties have signs of injury, one party is identified as the aggressor based on the comparative injuries suffered by the parties, the parties’ history of domestic violence, and any other relevant factors.
- Officers have probable cause to believe that a no-contact or restraining order has been violated.
- Officers have probable cause to believe that a weapon was used to commit domestic violence.
- The alleged perpetrator has an active arrest warrant.
In all other cases, police have discretionary authority to arrest when they have probable cause to believe that an individual has committed an act of domestic violence.
Understanding New Jersey Domestic Violence Penalties
Penalties for domestic violence criminal convictions in New Jersey depend on the grading of the specific act. Domestic violence charges may be graded as a disorderly persons offense, also known as a misdemeanor, or as an indictable crime, also known as a felony. Sentencing ranges for convictions include:
- Disorderly persons offense: Up to six months in jail, plus a potential fine of up to $1,000
- Fourth-degree crime: Up to 18 months in prison, plus a potential fine of up to $10,000
- Third-degree crime: Three to five years in prison, plus a potential fine of up to $15,000
- Second-degree crime: Five to 10 years in prison, plus a potential fine of up to $150,000
- First-degree crime: Up to 20 years in prison, or up to a life sentence for certain offenses, plus a potential fine of up to $200,000
Courts can also order court costs, restitution, anger management classes, or substance abuse treatment as part of an offender’s sentence. Courts may also impose no-contact or restraining orders, prohibiting a convicted defendant from having any further contact with a victim or their family.
Conviction for a domestic violence crime also disqualifies an offender from having a firearms purchaser card or from owning weapons. Finally, a sex-based domestic violence crime may result in lifetime sex offender registration requirements.
What Are the Common Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges?
There are many potential defenses to domestic violence charges, including:
- Self-defense or defense of others – You may be able to defend yourself against domestic violence charges, such as assault, by proving that you were lawfully entitled to use reasonable force to protect yourself or someone else from the imminent threat of bodily injury from the alleged victim.
- Alibi – If you are facing accusations of harassment, stalking, or burglary, you may be able to defeat your charges by proving you were somewhere else when the alleged act of domestic violence occurred.
- Consent – Charges of sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, kidnapping, or false imprisonment can be defeated by proving that the alleged victim consented to the act or incident.
- False allegation – You may be able to defend yourself against a domestic violence charge by arguing that the victim has made a false allegation, often by highlighting inconsistencies in the victim’s allegations or when the victim repeatedly shifts their story.
- Lack of evidence – Domestic violence charges might also be dismissed when the prosecution has insufficient evidence to prove that an act of domestic violence took place, that you were the perpetrator of an act of domestic violence, or that you and the victim have a qualifying relationship under New Jersey’s domestic violence laws.
Can Domestic Violence Charges Be Dropped?
If parties involved in a domestic violence case later reconcile, that does not automatically mean that criminal domestic violence charges will be dropped. Once charges have been filed, the decision to drop the case rests with the prosecutor’s office, not the victim.
As a practical matter, prosecutors may decide to drop domestic violence charges if an alleged victim later chooses not to cooperate with the prosecution or testify at trial. But prosecutors may also choose to continue a domestic violence case involving severe injury or death, or if the prosecution believes that a victim may be under duress or coercion to not cooperate.
What Are the Common Charges Related to Domestic Violence in Monmouth County?
At Keith Oliver Criminal Law, we represent clients throughout Monmouth County who have been accused of domestic violence offenses such as:
- Domestic assault – Assault involves intentionally or recklessly causing or intentionally attempting to cause injury, negligently causing injury with a deadly weapon, or using threats of force or violence to put someone in fear of imminent serious injury.
- Endangering the welfare of a child – This occurs when someone engages in sexual conduct that may impair the morals of a child or causes any other harm that would be considered child neglect or abuse.
- Stalking – This occurs when someone engages in a course of conduct, typically by following or monitoring a victim, that would reasonably cause the victim to fear for their safety or the safety of another.
- Kidnapping – Moving a person from one place to another without their consent, or holding a person against their will for purposes of obtaining a ransom or using them as a hostage or shield, is considered kidnapping.
- Sexual assault – Sexual assault includes any act of sexual penetration without the victim’s consent where physical force or coercion is used or the victim suffers from a physical, mental, or legal incapacity that renders them unable to consent.
- False imprisonment – This involves knowingly restraining the free movement of another party without their consent or without lawful authority or justification.
- Lewdness – This includes any offensive act (such as exposing one’s intimate parts) that the perpetrator knows or expects will be observed by another nonconsenting party who will be alarmed or offended by such act.
- Criminal sexual contact – This occurs when an individual intentionally touches the intimate parts of a victim or forces the victim to touch the perpetrator’s intimate parts for the purposes of sexually degrading or humiliating the victim and/or for the perpetrator’s own sexual arousal or gratification.
- Criminal restraint – This is defined as unlawfully restraining the free movement of another party without their consent, in a way that causes or threatens serious injury, or holding another person in involuntary servitude.
- Criminal trespass – Trespass occurs when a person enters the property of another without permission of the owner or another authorized party or without lawful authority.
- Burglary – Burglary involves entering a building or structure without authorization or lawful authority, with the intent to commit another crime therein.
- Harassment – Harassment occurs when a person commits any act directed at a party with the intent to annoy, intimidate, or alarm that party.
- Restraining orders – In New Jersey, willfully violating any of the terms of a restraining order constitutes a crime unto itself, even if the act does not fall under any of the other listed acts of domestic violence.
Get Advice from a Trusted Monmouth County Domestic Violence Lawyer Now
If you have been arrested and charged with a domestic violence crime, get the legal help you need to protect your freedom and future. Contact Keith Oliver Criminal Law today for a free, confidential consultation with a Monmouth County domestic violence lawyer.