New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer
Domestic violence is a serious crime. Unfortunately, in divorces, child custody disputes and in many other situations, people often try to use false or exaggerated claims of domestic violence as a weapon. The damage can be hard to undo. For this reason, if you have been wrongfully accused of domestic violence, do not plead guilty or accept a deal without first discussing your case with a New Jersey domestic violence lawyer who will protect your rights.
As a former prosecutor and experienced criminal defense attorney, Anthony J. Vecchio has years of experience in both the criminal and civil justice systems in New Jersey. He is ready to go work for you today. Contact our office right away to begin building your defense.
What Is Domestic Violence in New Jersey?
The New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19) defines “domestic violence” as the occurrence of one or more of the following 19 acts if they are inflicted on a person who the Act protects:
- Terroristic threats
- Criminal restraint
- False imprisonment
- Sexual assault
- Criminal sexual contact
- Criminal mischief
- Criminal trespass
- Criminal coercion
- Contempt of a domestic violence order
- Crimes involving the risk of death or serious physical injury
- Cyber harassment
For a crime to classify as domestic violence, there must be a prior relationship between the accused and the alleged victim. While gender and sexual orientation are irrelevant, the relationship must fall within one of these categories:
- Living together now or in the past
- Present or past dating relationship
- Having a child in common (or anticipating a child together).
Many people confuse a restraining order with a criminal charge, but these are actually different things. The standard for getting a restraining order (also sometimes called a protective order) is lower than the requirement for criminal charges. A restraining order merely demonstrates that an act of domestic violence has occurred and sets forth limited protections against future acts. A criminal charge, on the other hand, requires either a guilty plea or conviction by a jury based on proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a much higher standard. It also carries potential jail time and fines.
You can find basic information about domestic violence charges in New Jersey through the New Jersey Courts website. However, given the consequences you face if you are convicted of a domestic violence charge, you should never try to represent yourself. Instead, contact Anthony J. Vecchio. Our legal team will work hard to protect your rights and your future.
How Does the Restraining Order Process Work in New Jersey?
Domestic violence allegations usually come up during domestic relations cases. After an accuser makes a formal allegation, a court staff member will interview him or her. The goal is to screen accusations in order to ensure they meet New Jersey’s definition of domestic violence. Next, the case may pass through two stages:
Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)
The accuser will go to a hearing before a judge. The accused is not entitled to any notice, and he or she is not required to attend. This is why the hearing is called “ex parte.” If the judge believes that the accusation is reasonably credible, the judge will enter a temporary restraining order. The court will then send this order to local law enforcement to hand-deliver it to the accused.
Final Restraining Order (FRO)
After entering the TRO, the judge will set the matter for a final hearing to occur within 10 days. At this hearing, the accused can fight the allegations. That is why it is absolutely critical to have an attorney and appear at this hearing if you are facing an FRO. Otherwise, your accuser could say just about anything about you – and it would all go unchallenged.
If the judge decides there is insufficient evidence to issue an FRO, then the matter will be discontinued, and the TRO will expire. However, if the judge agrees with the accuser and enters an FRO, the accused stands to lose a lot.
Here are just a few examples of things a judge can order:
- You may be prohibited from going on the accuser’s property (even if it is your home)
- Prohibit you from going to your accuser’s workplace
- Prevent from having any communication or contact with the accuser
- You can be prohibited from intimidating or contacting the accuser, including through others
- Order you to pay child support or emergency funds to the accuser
- Having to undergo therapy, rehab, counseling or substance abuse treatment
- Barred from possessing any firearms
- You could lose custody of your children and have to pay additional damages
- Require you to be photographed
- You will have your fingerprints taken
- You will be charged between $50 and $500 as a penalty
The FRO will be sent to law enforcement and potentially forwarded to the prosecutor for possible investigation of criminal charges.
Can You Face Criminal Charges for Violating a Restraining Order?
If you violate a restraining order – even in a minor and inadvertent way – police can arrest you in New Jersey, and a prosecutor can charge you. The prosecutor must prove that you “purposely or knowingly” violated any of the provisions contained within the restraining order. If you are convicted of violating the restraining order, it will constitute a fourth-degree crime, which is similar to a misdemeanor in other states that use that designation. The offense can carry jail time and heavy fines.
If you are charged with violating a restraining order, chances are that the conduct that the victim is alleging also qualifies as a crime on its own. Common examples include:
- Stalking – This is a third-degree crime, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
- Assault – If it is “simple” assault, it will be a fourth-degree crime, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and $1,000 in fines.
- Aggravated Assault – If the injuries are severe, or a weapon was involved, you could face aggravating factors. This increases the prison term to between five and 10 years and can carry a fine as high as $150,000.
- Criminal Contempt of Court – A contempt charge can actually carry a wide range of penalties, including a mandatory 30-day sentence if it is a second offense.
How Can a New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer Help You?
When you hire an experienced domestic violence lawyer in New Jersey, you can rest easy knowing that someone is in your corner, fighting to keep the system fair so your rights are not trampled. If you committed the offense, it doesn’t mean you should just confess and give up. You may have many strong defenses available. Further, sometimes having a lawyer on the case means minimizing the impact and severity of the charges. Attorney Anthony J. Vecchio can:
- Review evidence to build a defense. Never assume the government has done everything perfectly. Police can make critical mistakes when they investigate cases and collect evidence. Many busy and rushed prosecutors miss important details. Anthony will thoroughly examine your case in order to identify potential problems.
- Fight to exclude evidence. In many cases, evidence may need to be tossed out because it was collected in violation of a defendant’s rights or because police fail to follow the right procedure. For instance, in a domestic violence case, a statement may have been wrongfully obtained. Anthony will seek the exclusion of any unlawfully obtained evidence, which could possibly lead to a dismiss of your charge(s).
- Represent you at hearings and trials. If you must appear at an FRO hearing, you want an experienced attorney by your side to fight back against false domestic violence allegations. If your case turns into a criminal charge, your freedom depends on having skilled legal counsel such as Anthony, protecting your rights from start to finish.
- Help with appeals. In some cases, the courts get it wrong. If you are convicted of a domestic violence crime, you may be able to appeal from the judgment entered against you. Our firm can help with that as well.
Get Help from a New Jersey Domestic Violence Attorney Today
As an experienced domestic violence attorney in New Jersey, Anthony J. Vecchio is here to serve those who are accused of domestic violence. Our office can represent you before domestic relations courts or at criminal hearings on violations of restraining orders. Don’t wait until the case has gotten worse. Contact the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC today to schedule a meeting with Anthony. With offices throughout New Jersey, we make it easy and convenient to get the help you need when and where you need it.