If you have ever wondered how someone that steals a piece of fruit from the grocery store does not face ten years in prison or if someone convicted of homicide does not face 6 months in jail, it all comes down to the way an offense is graded. Grading occurs by degree of severity. The more severe an offense is, the penalties involved become that much more serious. In addition, although it is wrong to steal something, it would not serve the interests of justice to be ten years in prison for something that is worth 85 cents. As such, the degree of the offense often correlates with the underlying allegations involved.

In order to know the degree of an offense in New Jersey, it is critical to understand what an offense is. The word offense in New Jersey is two-fold and can be used interchangeably. Oftentimes, the word offense refers to a crime, felony or indictable charge. A crime in the State of New Jersey is an act contrary to a statute that, if convicted, holds a sentence beyond six months. Crimes are the most serious offenses because the risk of jail or prison is most severe with gross financial penalties involved. Crimes are designated as first, second, third or fourth degree.

Important Terminology for Determining the Severity of a Criminal Offense in New Jersey

  • First Degree Crime: Being convicted of a first-degree offense will result in the most extreme sentence. First degree crimes can include certain sex offenses involving children, kidnapping, criminal homicide, aggravated criminal sexual assault, arson, drug distribution, and more. Crimes of the first degree generally carry a term of imprisonment between 10 and 20 years with a fine up to $200,000.
  • Second Degree Crime: Second-degree crimes can lead to a maximum of 10 years in prison with a fine up to $150,000. There are many different crimes that are second degree, however, the most common are unlawful possession of a firearm, aggravated assault, certain shoplifting offenses, certain drug offenses, possession of weapons with an unlawful purpose, etc.
  • Third Degree Crime: A fine up to $15,000 and a prison term up to 5 years are the penalties for a third degree crime in New Jersey. Frequently, drug offenses, terroristic threats, possession of certain weapons like BB guns, eluding, and many other offenses can constitute third degree crimes in New Jersey.
  • Fourth Degree Crime: Possession of Hollow Nose ammunition, drug distribution and possession charges, and shoplifting may be graded as fourth degree indictable offenses. Commonly individuals face up to 18 months incarceration with fines stretching up to $10,000.
  • Extended Term of Imprisonment: An individual who has been convicted of a crime of the first, second or third degree may face an extended term of imprisonment if he or she meets particular criteria. Specifically, if the person is a persistent offender, a professional criminal, or if the individual has been convicted of a certain offense are most commonly the reasons an extended term may be imposed.
  • Presumption of Non-Incarceration: Once an individual is convicted of certain third or fourth degree offenses, it is presumed that the offender will not be sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
  • No Early Release Act: Pursuant to the No Early Release Act, individuals convicted of certain crimes must complete 85% of one’s sentence before parole eligibility.

Superior Courts have the jurisdiction to hear crimes or indictable offenses. If you have been convicted of a crime by either being found guilty or entering a plea of guilty to a particular crime, you will have a sentencing hearing after being convicted of the offense.

Factors the Court Considers for Sentencing in Morris County NJ

To determine an offender’s appropriate sentence, the Court considers enumerated aggravating and mitigating factors defined under N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1. In addition to the statutory factors, the Court is also guided by the sentencing presumptions listed under N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(d) & (e). Moreover, a custodial term may be imposed if the Court finds that imprisonment is essential to protect the public. To make such a determination, the Court looks at the nature and circumstances of the offense together with the history, character and condition of the defendant. Further, the Court also may evaluate the aggravating factors set forth under N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(a).

What does it mean to weigh aggravating and mitigating factors?

In order for an individual to be sentenced by the Court, the State and defense may argue that an offender should be given a particular sentence. In doing so, the parties put forth on the record reasons the Court may find in support of and in opposition of a particular sentence. For example, aggravating factors may include: the nature and circumstances of the offense, the role of the actor therein, including whether or not the offense was committed in an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner; the risk that the defendant will commit another offense; the need for deterring the defendant and others from violating the law, and more.

Oppositely, mitigating factors may include: the defendant having no history of prior delinquency or criminal activity or has led a law-abiding life for a substantial period of time before the commission of the present offense; the defendant’s conduct was the result of circumstances unlikely to recur; the character and attitude of the defendant indicate that he or she is unlikely to commit another offense; the imprisonment of the defendant would entail excessive hardship to his or her dependents; etc.

What if my charge does not have a degree and it says something else on my complaint?

If a complaint indicates that you are being charged with a disorderly persons offense or a petty disorderly persons offense that means you are looking at misdemeanor level charges. Picking up from where we left off earlier about the term offense having two meanings, this term is also used to refer to low-level charges as well. Municipal Courts have the authority to hear lower-level cases (and traffic offenses) because the financial penalties and jail time involved are not as severe as felony offenses. Lower-level offenses are disorderly persons or a petty disorderly persons offenses. In fact, these offenses have the least exposure among all criminal violations of New Jersey laws. Notably, despite their minimum penalties, an individual will have a criminal record once convicted of either misdemeanor or felony offenses.

What if I’m charged with multiple crimes of varying degrees?

Being charged with multiple crimes can expose you to a great deal of upheaval in your life because of the amount of prison time and financial penalties involved. In other words, each charge carries its own set of penalties and fines. For example, if you have been charged with second degree unlawful possession of a weapon AND possession of a weapon with an unlawful purpose then your maximum exposure from these charges alone are $300,000 and twenty years in prison. Similarly, if you are charged with simple assault, a disorderly persons offense, which is a case that could be in the Municipal Court, but you also have a third degree eluding charge, then your entire case may be disposed of at the County Superior Court due to the level and severity of the other charges involved. Ways to avoid such a severe sentence may be to enter a negotiated plea, build a strong defense refuting the charges or entering a diversionary program, if applicable to your case.

It is important to speak with an attorney to handle your felony or misdemeanor offenses because convictions can severely impact your future through housing, employment and much more. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney with offices in Morristown, New Jersey today for a complimentary consultation.

In a typical drug or criminal case in New Jersey, the first thing that must be determined is whether the charge is for a disorderly persons offense or a more serious felony-level offense. A disorderly persons offense tends to apply to less serious drug charges like possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a small amount of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS). These cases are handled in the local municipal court of the city or town where the offense allegedly occurred. In New Jersey, drug cases are heard in either municipal court or superior court. Drug charges in the municipal court typically involve lesser offenses. More serious drug crimes are handled in the county superior court. Since the prosecutor must first obtain an indictment from a grand jury a trial can occur, these are known as “indictable offenses.” In essence, a crime of any degree is a felony or indictable offense.

When a drug case is heard at the municipal court level, there is no jury. A judge will listen to parties in the case, determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty, and then possibly issue a sentence that could involve jail time. By contrast, a superior court drug case happens with a trial by jury, and the possible penalties include prison time. In some superior court drug cases involving drug trafficking charges or drug distribution charges, the defendant could be subject to a mandatory prison sentence if convicted.

What Drug Charges You can get in New Jersey

Narcotics are regulated in New Jersey according to “drug schedules” set forth in the NJ Controlled Dangerous Substances Act. This law specifically regulates the use, sale, prescribing, handling, and labeling of any drug or controlled dangerous substance (CDS) that may have the potential for abuse. Keep in mind that this applies to both legal and illegal drugs, so even a medication such as cough syrup is covered by the statute. In the majority of instances, the more dangerous the drug, the closer to zero its schedule. For example, heroin is classified as a Schedule I CDS, while cough syrup with codeine is a Schedule V CDS. Drugs classified in Schedule I, II, or III typically carry stricter regulations on use and more severe penalties for anyone found to be violating the law. Some of the most common drug charges in New Jersey include the following:

  • Marijuana Distribution
  • Cocaine Possession and Distribution
  • Heroin Possession and Distribution
  • Prescription Drug Offenses
  • Drug Paraphernalia Possession
  • School Zone Drug Offenses
  • Public Park Drug Offenses

As one might expect, the penalties for a drug distribution offense tend to be more severe than the penalties for a drug possession offense. However, it is worth noting that a person can be charged with a distribution offense even if they did not actually sell drugs. This is because the NJ criminal code also prohibits something known as “possession with intent to distribute.” What exactly does this mean? If a person is found by law enforcement with a heavy weight of illegal drugs or a high number of prescription pills, then authorities can infer that the drugs are not for personal use. Instead, the assumption will be that the individual planned to sell the drugs, which would constitute illegal drug distribution. Since the penalties for intent to distribute are indistinguishable from the penalties for actual distribution, you may face significant prison time if convicted.

School Zone Drug Offenses

The standard penalties for drug crimes in New Jersey are already pretty harsh, but they can be even harsher when the drug offense was committed by someone in a school zone or public park. The drug crime laws allow for enhanced penalties in these instances, and judges often impose the maximum allowable prison sentences as a way to discourage future offenders who might think twice before exposing young children to drugs. The law against school zone drug violations in NJ imposes a minimum mandatory term of incarceration for anyone who is convicted of distributing drugs in a protected area.

If you have been accused of selling a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) in a school building, on a school bus, or anywhere else in a school zone, contact a knowledgeable attorney immediately. Not only could a conviction expose you to significant prison time for the underlying drug distribution offense, but the fact that it occurred within a protected school zone could expose you to additional prison time. Specifically, the judge can sentence you to an extra three (3) years in prison for selling cocaine or heroin, and at least one (1) extra year for selling marijuana or prescription drugs.

Distributing and Intent to Sell Drugs Near Public Property

The law against public park drug violations in NJ also imposes a minimum mandatory prison sentence for any individual who is convicted of distributing drugs in or near a public space. The statute covers not just public parks, but also public housing facilities for low-income residents and other government-owned buildings. Additionally, the law includes the area around the public space and covers a 500-foot radius surrounding the area. Basically, the statute allows for upgraded charges and enhanced penalties because all public park drug distribution offenses are classified as second degree felonies, regardless of the type of drug or weight, unless the drug in question is marijuana. This means that all it takes is a small amount of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, or prescription drugs to expose you to up to 10 years in prison under the enhanced charges for public park drug distribution offenses.

What If It’s My First Time Being Charged with a Criminal Offense?

Although most drug offenses in New Jersey carry harsh punishments, some first-time offenders are able to avoid jail. This is made possible when the defendant secures admission into a diversionary program like Pretrial Intervention (PTI) or an alternative sentencing option like Drug Court. PTI is only available in certain drug cases that involve a defendant with no prior convictions. This applies as well to low-level drug cases in municipal court with a program called conditional discharge. If you are admitted into one of these special programs, the court will sentence you to probation and drug treatment/rehabilitation instead of prison. The focus of these programs is on recovery instead of punishment, which is why the defendant is typically required to attend drug counseling, take frequent drug tests, and generally stay out of trouble during their probationary period. Upon completion of these requirements, the drug charge is dismissed, and the defendant is free to move forward with their life without a drug crime conviction appearing on their criminal record.

Possible Defenses Available in New Jersey Drug Cases

These are some of the most common defenses in New Jersey drug cases:

  • Illegal search by police. Before conducting a search of you or your property, police must have (a) a search warrant, (b) your consent for a search, (c) clear view of drugs in plain sight, (d) probable cause to believe there are drugs present or evidence of a crime, or (e) a reasonable belief that exigent circumstances require an immediate search of the premises.
  • Issues with chain of custody for evidence. After police find evidence of drugs, they must take careful steps to ensure that the evidence is properly handled and documented every step of the way. For example, there must be clear documentation when the evidence is transferred from police to a lab for testing and then to the prosecutor.
  • No evidence of drugs. It may be hard to believe, but it’s actually possible for police to seize a harmless substance that they mistake for illegal drugs. Your attorney can make sure that any lab tests show that the evidence seized in your case was not a controlled dangerous substance.
  • Drug weight error. NJ drug charges typically carry more severe penalties when the drug amounts or weights are higher. A mistake by law enforcement when weighing the drug evidence in your case could lead to the prosecutor incorrectly filing more serious charges against you.
  • Violation of your Fifth Amendment rights. Police must advise you of your constitutional right against self-incrimination before they subject you to formal questioning. They can ask you about the drugs in your possession during a traffic stop or other interaction, but you do not have to answer. You should also contact an attorney before subjecting yourself to any questions at the police station, as anything you say can be used to prosecute you.

The best way to identify and raise defenses in your drug possession or distribution case is to have a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney representing you.

Get Morris County Defense Lawyer Help with Your Drug Case

The punishments for drug charges make it critically important for you to have a skilled criminal defense lawyer handling your drug case. An experienced attorney may be able to get your drug charges downgraded to a lesser offense, which means that the case would be transferred from superior court to municipal court, or reduced from a disorderly persons offense to a municipal ordinance violation, both of which ultimately mean you would no longer face more severe penalties.

It also might be possible for your attorney to secure your admission into a diversionary program or obtain an alternative sentence that protects your future and your freedom to the greatest extent possible. In some cases, an effective defense argument can allow you to avoid conviction entirely. What it takes is a thorough analysis, knowledge of the court rules and procedures, a solid handle on defense strategies, and a commitment to fighting for you. Contact an experienced criminal attorney now to challenge the drug charges you face in Morris County or anywhere in New Jersey.

Criminal Charges for Loitering or Wandering in a Drug Zone

Can you be charged with an offense for something that you technically have not done? That can certainly be the case for offenses involving loitering or wandering in a drug zone, technically referred to as Loitering to Obtain or Distribute CDS, in New Jersey. Loitering refers to a person hanging around a public place. Wandering, on the other hand, refers to a person roaming around with no purpose. It is interesting how by definition the term wandering means not having a purpose, but in the context of the statutory authority for wandering or loitering in a drug zone, an individual is found to wander or meander in a public space with the purpose to acquire or disseminate drugs.

Despite this unique play on the word: purpose, an individual facing an offense contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C: 33-2.1 is being charged with having purpose or intent to commit an offense in a location with increased drug activity.

What is Required to Prove a 2C: 33-2.1 Loitering Charge

If we go back to the original question for a moment, how can you be charged with an offense for something that you have not done? With this type of offense, the circumstances of the underlying incident and the purpose to buy or sell drugs is enough for someone to fall as a perpetrator of this wrongdoing. The statute defines behaviors where the element of purpose can be found. For example, let’s say that you frequent a park weekly and just hang around there for a few hours between 11:00pm and 2:00am. During that time you engage in behavior by walking up to individuals who are also in the park or you walk up to motor vehicles driving through the park. This conduct could be used to prove that you engaged in the type of behavior in accordance with a violation of this statute. However, in order to be found guilty of this offense, a person must have remained or wandered in a public place, with the purpose to distribute or maintain drugs while actively engaging in conduct that demonstrates purpose. To understand the concept of manifesting a purpose, the case State v. Kazanes shows how an officer witnessed a drug transaction being purposeful. In this case, despite the element of wandering not properly being met, the element of purpose was evident because of the drug packaging and the residue of the drug on the defendant’s mouth after swallowing the evidence. Thus, the underlying circumstances represent the sale and/or purchase of the drugs that would indicate the element of purpose under this statute.

A Prosecutor may refer to tangible items to prove that you were wandering or meandering in a public space with the purpose to buy or sell drugs. These items may include having a lot of cash on one’s person, or even drugs/drug paraphernalia with you at the time of the arrest. As a whole, the circumstances surrounding the underlying event are used to determine whether there is enough evidence involved to give rise to a charge of this nature. Accordingly, the circumstances surrounding your case are extremely important.

Disorderly Persons Loitering, Wandering Drug Offense Penalties in NJ

If you are charged with an offense of this nature, then you are facing disorderly persons charges. Although disorderly persons offenses are the lowest level criminal offenses in New Jersey, it is still something you do not want on your record. For this offense alone, an individual may be subjected up to six months in jail and up to $1000 fine.

Moreover, you may also have additional charges corresponding with your loitering in a drug zone offense. Particularly, you may be looking at drug possession or distribution charges, drug paraphernalia charges and more. In fact, depending on the type of offense you can be facing multiple felony offenses. These additional charges will carry significant penalties, fines and serious prison time. Just distribution of CDS alone can give you a minimum five-year ticket to prison and then depending on the amount on you can bring you to potentially 20 years in prison and hundreds of thousands worth of fines.

How can a loitering in a drug zone charge merge with a distributing or possession with intent to distribute CDS charge?

If you are found actively engaged in purposeful activity that would indicate the buying and selling of drugs, such as frequently approaching drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and passing something to each of them, and once approached by police you are found with drugs and the other party has a large sum of cash, you have met the elements of the loitering offense but also distribution of a controlled dangerous substance. The type of punishments for the distribution offense will vary depending on the type of drug(s), the quantity of the drug(s), and location of the transaction. Police can establish the probable cause element of charging you with this offense through using informants, undercover officers or even by witnessing the transaction to establish that you intended the sale of a controlled dangerous substance. Again, the underlying surrounding circumstances will be used for an officer to charge you with a crime. This may also mean that circumstantial evidence will be sufficient to charge you with one or more of the above crimes.

What is circumstantial evidence for a criminal case?

Circumstantial evidence means that one could infer based on mere circumstances alone that a person committed a crime. In other words, it can be referred to as evidence to prove a fact or truth asserted. In criminal law case this may mean that a witness did not see the defendant stab a person, but saw blood on his or her hands and a bloody knife at the defendant’s home. In the earlier examples, it may be the drug residue, a lot of money or packages used to place the drugs in.

In law school, a simple example of this principle is in torts, or personal injury cases, to establish negligence through the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. When someone slips and falls on a banana peel in a grocery store, the condition of the peel itself can be used to prove negligence by looking at the color of the banana peel. The color indicates how long it has been on the floor in showing the store was negligent in the upkeep of the area. This can be considered circumstantial evidence because you do not need direct evidence to prove the wrong based on the color of the peel alone, indicating it had been on the floor for a long time. Of course, this would have to be the color at the time of the fall, not hours later.

How to Handle Loitering Drug Charges in Morris County and throughout New Jersey

Are you facing loitering in a drug zone charges or more drug crimes? Do you think your case is ground on consequential evidence at best? Contact a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney now for a complimentary consultation to discuss your case, to see what options are available to you and find out if and how you can avoid jail or prison time through defense arguments, diversionary programs, downgrading the charges, and other strategies.

If you drive drunk, you do not want to get stopped by law enforcement on federal property. You will most likely end up in federal court rather than the local municipal court for a traffic offense. That could be bad news for you. Once you are in the federal criminal system, you could be up against notoriously tough prosecutors and laws. For that reason, a criminal defense attorney with extensive federal court experience is a must when you have been charged with a crime on federal property in New Jersey. You need a strong advocate who knows how to deal with stringent laws and prosecutors who have the upper hand, someone who is familiar with both state and federal laws, rules, and systems.

The state and federal systems overlap in some areas, for instance, when a state law is violated on federal property. As a defendant charged with a state law violation, you will probably be tried in federal court using either state or federal law and federal rules and procedures. Because federal law is more stringent, you may need to present strong evidence to challenge the charges and be acquitted of the crime. Fines are typically higher in federal court too, compared to state court, and federal prison sentences are longer and harsher than state sentences.

Why are Charges Worse when on Federal Land in NJ?

One reason the punishment is tougher for crimes committed on federal property may be that federal lands contain dangerous or protected items that would cause harm to the federal government if trespassed, such as buildings that contain confidential files or dangerous chemicals sitting in underground storage. Drunk driving on federal property constitutes just such a threat to federal property, but other crimes too, like trespassing, vandalism, and reckless driving. Likewise, crimes committed on military forts and bases, government buildings or parking lots, national parks and forests, airports and courthouses lead to federal charges, whether the crime is a state violation or a specific federal law violation, and the stricter penalties reflect the necessity to protect federal property. However, any crime that can be committed on state property can be committed on federal property, like theft, lewdness, obstruction of law, criminal mischief, terroristic threats, drug distribution or possession, or DWI/DUI for operating a motor vehicle or vessel while under the influence.

Charged with DWI on Federal Property in New Jersey

When an officer stops you for drunk driving on federal property, such as at a federal park, in a national forest, or on a military base, like McGuire Air Force Base, you may be charged under federal laws for breaking state laws against offenses like DUI. Since there is no drunk driving federal law, the state law is “assimilated,” by the Federal Assimilative Crimes Act, or made part of the federal law, and you are charged for a federal crime. So, what would have been a traffic infraction on non-federal property is an offense on federal property, with a harsher sentence.

For example, if you were caught driving while intoxicated in a national park, such as Sandy Hook National Park, or a military base like McGuire Air Force Base, or another eligible location such as Picatinny Arsenal, you may be subject to federal prosecution as opposed to typical state prosecution. If the offense does not exist explicitly according to existing federal law, the case will be determined by state law as assimilated into federal law. A DUI in a national park may lead to a sentence of six months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.00. In contrast, state sentences typically do not include jail time for first DWI offenses but could result in up to 30 days in county jail, just to lend some perspective on how severe federal sentences are compared to state sentences. And if your DUI occurred on a military base, you may face additional military charges on top of the federal and state charges. It makes a difference whether federal or state law determines your outcome.

Laws Governing Federal Crimes in NJ

The laws that govern federal cases are United States Code and the Code of Federal Regulations, which define federal crimes. Federal Agencies, however, have their own sets of laws that define certain crimes. The Justice Department, for instance, handles federal cases, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigate crimes committed on federal property or any federal crime. The United States Attorney’s office prosecutes federal crimes, following the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence. Federal crimes are not limited to agency rules and laws, however. They are also those committed on specific places designated as U.S. territories or on certain bodies of water, like the Great Lakes, or airspace over the high seas, or any other places outside national borders or pertaining to aircraft, like crimes in an airplane flying over U.S. territory.

Who Hears Federal Cases when they Happen in Morris County?

Federal cases are heard by federal judges or magistrates of the United States District Courts. However, the U.S. military handles court martials in military courts. Magistrates handle petty offenses, those with maximum fines of $5,000.00 and a maximum prison sentence of six months, though they may have federal misdemeanors delegated to them from federal judges with the defendant’s consent. Federal misdemeanors carry prison sentences up to a year and fines of up to $250,000.00, and magistrates preside over petty offenses or misdemeanor cases in various locations, not just where federal judges in Trenton, Camden, and Newark usually hear cases.

Common Criminal & DUI Offenses on Federal Property

You may be charged and prosecuted in New Jersey after a specific federal department has gathered evidence. The federal law enforcement departments at Fort Dix, Fort Monmouth, Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook and Fort Hancock, and the United States Park Service, Picatinny Arsenal, Naval Weapons Station Earle, and Lakehurst Naval Air Station may be the source of the criminal complaint against you, depending upon where you were caught committing a crime on federal property. Essentially, DWI/DUI, refusal charges, traffic offenses, and other state criminal charges, become federal crimes just by where they are committed. And Title 18, section 13 of the U.S. Code covers crimes occurring within a state but on federal property. As previously mentioned, the laws of the state crimes and their interpretations are used in these cases.

Federal courts typically handle federal crimes, like drug, immigration, fraud, trafficking, money laundering, weapons, conspiracy, kidnapping across state lines, bank robbery crimes, organized crime (RICO statutes), white collar crimes, as well as those committed against federal employees or on federal property. Crimes on government property, such as bank fraud, bank robbery, conspiracy cases, counterfeiting, bribery of public official, computer crimes, Homeland Security Offenses, offenses related to interstate commerce, violent crimes, internet crimes, interstate crimes, pornography, and drug smuggling are prosecuted as federal crimes. When sentencing a defendant for any of these and other federal and state crimes, judges and prosecutors consider the nature of the offense, circumstances of the offense, criminal history, deterrence, respect for the law, public protection, rehabilitation of the defendant, sentence guidelines, and judicial consistency.

Consult a Defense Lawyer in Morristown if You Have been Arrested on Federal Lands

Whether you have allegedly committed a state or federal crime on federal property, you are going to need a good attorney to show that your history and good standing as a citizen, as well as your respect for the law, qualifies you for a lighter sentence, at the very least. The federal government is better resourced than state courts, so prosecutors can take cases to trial rather than plea bargain. In addition, the rules of procedure in federal court are skewed toward the prosecution with bail and pre-trial release much more difficult than in state court. Federal prosecutors are not as overworked so they can spend more time and be tougher on your case, so enlisting help from a highly skilled NJ federal court defense attorney to assist you with your case is absolutely advisable. A knowledgeable federal charge lawyer can often ensure that you are dealt with fairly in federal court and possibly prove to the prosecutor and judge that you did not commit the crime charged or deserve a lighter sentence. And if the circumstances call for negotiation with the prosecution, your attorney can help you negotiate a plea bargain to avoid trial and the worst case scenario. Receive a free consultation by contacting us today.

Charged with Eluding Police in Morris County?

If you have ever been pulled over, you know that feeling. Your stomach sinks as you glance in the rearview mirror blasted with blue and red flashing lights, probably followed by a siren if you have not noticed the lights soon enough. Maybe you know what you did, but maybe you do not. Either way, if you do not pull over when a police officer commands you to by their lights, siren, or other clear signals, you could be breaking the law. Eluding the police can be charged as a third degree crime in New Jersey, but it can also be charged as a second degree crime depending on the circumstances. The severity of the risk posed to others and the intention of the person eluding the police determines how the crime is charged. The range subsumed under the eluding statute covers anything from a delayed reaction, to pulling over when police signal you to do so, to a high-speed car chase. Whether you are charged for a third or second degree crime, you are looking at significant fines and prison terms. And yet, it is not uncommon to fall into the trap of committing the crime of eluding an officer and violating N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2, over a simple mistake or panic reaction.

Need a Top Morristown Lawyer for Eluding Charges

Given how easy it is to commit this crime, knowingly or unknowingly, and the seriousness of the consequences, you should not hesitate about getting the best legal advice and representation for your eluding charges. A talented defense lawyer can convince the prosecuting attorney and the judge that your intentions were not to escape the police, which helps to lessen the charge, prison time and fees, or get the case dismissed completely in some cases. If possible, you want to avoid a criminal record, which is an unfortunate consequence of conviction. Contact our New Jersey eluding lawyer if you need help defending an eluding case in Morris County, NJ, including in Morristown, Parsippany, Boonton, Rockaway, East Hanover, Roxbury, and Mount Olive. Here is some crucial information that you need to know if you are facing eluding charges in New Jersey.

Meaning of Eluding in New Jersey

The core of the offense of eluding police is not stopping when signaled to stop by a law enforcement officer. N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2 is the eluding statute that describes how you can be guilty of this crime. You commit a fourth degree crime when you try to evade an arrest. However, it is a third degree crime to flee an officer while operating a vehicle on the roadways or a vessel on the waterways when the officer clearly indicates they want you to stop, say, by a siren, lights, announcement, wave of the arm, or any combination of those. Further, it is a second degree crime if the escape from arrest creates a safety risk for others.

How much time do you get for Eluding an Officer in NJ?

If you are arrested for driving on any road in the state of New Jersey and do not stop, you may be charged with a third degree crime and face three (3) to five (5) years in prison and up to $15,000.00 in fines. If you kept driving on a major highway going 50 to 65 miles an hour after a police car behind you turned on their lights, risking injury to the officer or anyone else, you may be charged with second degree eluding the police. And if the police must get you to stop by pulling alongside your car, commanding you to pull over by megaphone or loudspeaker, even trying to force you to the side of the road, your eluding arrest arguably distracts other drivers on the road and so, risks the police officer’s life as well as others’. If convicted of a second degree crime, you face five (5) to ten (10) years in prison and up to $150,000.00 in fines.

In addition, your license will be suspended or revoked for six months to two years for eluding the police. A driver under the age of 18 may likewise have their license suspended, revoked, or delayed (if they have no license) pending the completion of the suspension or delay period.

What if You Didn’t Know You Failed to Stop when Signaled by an Officer?

You may not even have even understood that the police were trying to pull you over, as you did not think you committed any infractions. For example, you may be driving with your friend, enjoying a conversation, but not realizing that you passed a sign that prohibits making a left turn at the light. After making the forbidden left turn, you see a police car with flashing lights, so you slowly move over to the right but keep the car going in slow motion until the police car passes. Much to your surprise, the police car pulls up to your side angrily shouting at you to pull over and stop the car. You may be suspected and charged with eluding the police, even without the notorious high-speed chase. It is also not uncommon for some people, especially the elderly, to be confused and panicked when they see the lights and sirens behind them, and they simply do not react properly or in time to pull over and stop their car.

Defending N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2 Eluding Charges

No doubt, evading police is serious, but an experienced criminal defense attorney can examine the evidence against you and cast doubt on some of the elements the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you of this crime or any of its related crimes. For example, if you did not intend to elude the police but were confused or mistaken as to whether the police were signaling you to stop, you may not be guilty of eluding. In addition, the police may not have clearly signaled for you to pull over, turning on their lights only after you were out of range.

Since intent and risk of harm are key components to the crime of eluding, your attorney can convince the prosecuting attorney that the facts show you did not intend to elude the police; for example, you failed to stop because you were confused, mistaken, or panicked, and no one was harmed. As such, they may be able to convince the prosecuting attorney to lower the charges from a second degree to a third or fourth degree charge or even a disorderly persons offense, if not outright dismissing the charges by showing the prosecutor or the court the weaknesses of the case. The prosecutor must convince a jury that beyond a reasonable doubt you intended to commit the charged crime. It is a tough burden of proof and the case should be challenged at every turn.

Your attorney can also help you apply for the first-time offender’s diversionary program, the Pre-Trial Intervention Program if the charges are reduced from a second degree to a third or fourth degree crime, so that you may avoid a conviction on your record after completing it. Finally, your attorney may also be successful in securing a plea bargain to lesser charges in exchange for your guilty plea.

Dedicated NJ Defense Attorneys for Eluding Charges

Since the stakes are extremely high, be sure to find a top criminal lawyer to defend you. Contact us for a free consultation.

Crimes in New Jersey are predominantly defined by the surrounding circumstances of an alleged act. Thus, it is no different for crimes involving theft. Crimes of “taking” in New Jersey are delineated as theft, robbery, shoplifting, embezzlement, theft by deception, receiving stolen property and more. Each offense has qualifying elements that define the respective crime. These offenses in New Jersey are often referred to as intent crimes. The physical act itself, the mental act (or intent), causation and the concurrence between the physical and mental act, are what the State uses to prove a crime. Here, intent means that a defendant engaged in an act to derive a certain result. Intent is considered an element of theft offenses, as well as other offenses violating the NJ Criminal Statutes. The Model Penal Code looks to four distinct ways to determine the mental state to meet this element of a crime. The State of New Jersey also follows similar means to prove the requisite intent to commit a crime. Overall, if the State cannot prove intent, then the crime cannot be proven.

One may ask, how can the State prove what someone else thinks or intends to do? This is considered one’s state of mind to commit a crime, or mens rea. Mens rea can be proven through the State showing a defendant acted purposefully through a conscious act. It can also be proven that the defendant acted knowingly, meaning that he or she was aware one’s conduct would lead to a certain result. It can similarly be proven that a defendant acted recklessly, meaning that he or she consciously disregarded a risk, or negligently, meaning that he or she ignored the risk that a crime would result from one’s actions. This means in order to be proven guilty of one of these offenses, he or she must meet this element of intent, in addition to the other elements involved in the crime. Intent can easily be understood when someone commits identity theft. For cases of identity theft, a defendant uses someone else’s identification with the intent to obtain a benefit of doing so whether it is a financial benefit or something else.

What are the most common theft, or taking, offenses in New Jersey? Theft by unlawful taking, shoplifting, and robbery are generally the most common taking offenses.

What is the difference between theft and robbery?

  • Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3, theft is the unlawful taking, or exercise of control over movable property of another with the purpose to deprive its owner of the property. Theft can also be defined as unlawfully transferring immovable property with purpose to benefit oneself or another.
  • Robbery, according to N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1, is when someone commits theft but in the process of doing so either: inflicts bodily injury, threatens another with immediate bodily injury or threatens to commit a crime of the first or second degree. One may be found guilty of robbery “in the course of” committing theft, which means that it arises in the attempt or in immediate flight after the attempt or commission of the theft.

The premise of robbery and theft is, in fact, fundamentally the same, as both require there being intent to deprive an actual owner of his or her property. The true difference between the two, however, is the threat of force involved. Essentially, robbery adds an additional component or layer to theft. Overall, they are each classified as intent crimes that deprive the owner of his or her property.

Theft offenses are classified as second, third or fourth degree felonies when the amount of the property involved exceeds specific values. In addition, the amount of property valued at $200 or less would be classified as a disorderly persons offense. On the other hand, robbery is a first or second degree crime. Thus, a defendant faces serious prison time and hefty fines with that serious of a crime at hand.

What is the difference between shoplifting and robbery?

The difference between robbery and shoplifting is that shoplifting occurs in a retail establishment, whereas robbery can occur anywhere. Shoplifting is also broad in what conduct is defined as such and is usually the taking or concealment of an item in a store or similar retail establishment. Oppositely, robbery poses a physical threat to another denoting the severity of the crime by being a second or first degree offense. An indictable conviction for a shoplifting charge can range from either a second to a fourth degree crime. In addition, shoplifting offenses can also be classified as disorderly persons offenses. When it comes to shoplifting crimes, using force to resist being taken into custody or detainment can lead to robbery charges through the creation of physical bodily harm. Ultimately, the line can quickly and easily become blurred whether a defendant’s action is a shoplifting or robbery offense under the law.

Get Help with Your Theft Charge in Morristown and Morris County NJ

Theft offenses come with strong penalties that can alter your life significantly. Contact an attorney for help today to start building a strong defense strategy for your theft charges in Morristown and throughout Morris County, NJ. Remember robbery, shoplifting, motor vehicle theft, credit card theft and fraud, and similar charges can lead to serious fines, penalties and prison time so it is important to speak with a lawyer regarding your individual case. You can reach out anytime for a free legal consultation.

Relationships can turn sour quickly or slowly over time. Financial hardship, children, and differing philosophies regarding money and childrearing can tear down many short and long-term marriages. Substance abuse can also wear a relationship down. Spouses feel trapped, degraded, unwanted, and alone, often reacting in desperate ways to stay or leave the relationship, especially when one party files for divorce and the other resists the possibility of losing the life they know. Sometimes arguments escalate and violence occurs, a slap, a kick, a thrown object, or a brandished weapon. It may be the first time, or it may be one violent fight in a growing number of them. Once the police are called, however, you may be the subject of a restraining order. People in families, dating relationships, marriages, current or former shared living situations, and many others seek protection and face protection orders against them in New Jersey. If either of these applies to you, one of the most important things to know about is the available defenses and challenges that can be used in a restraining order case.

Temporary restraining orders are issued by a judge after a victim of one or more crimes enumerated in The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (the Act) appears before a judge, either by telephone or in person, and tells the judge what violence occurred. If the judge finds the victim, who is over 18 and in an intimate relationship with the abuser (spouse, ex-spouse, date, partner or parent of mutual children), suffered domestic violence and needs protection from further violence, the judge orders the temporary restraining order. If the judge finds the victim unbelievable or not a victim of one of the crimes listed in the Act, the restraining order is not granted. Typically, temporary restraining orders are granted.

Ten days after, a hearing to turn the temporary restraining order into a permanent order occurs.  At that hearing, you have an opportunity to challenge the victim’s portrayal of the facts and relationship to avoid the temporary order becoming permanent. To approve a final restraining order, the judge must find a predicate act of domestic violence occurred, meaning one of the 19 crimes listed in the Act, such as assault, harassment, stalking or lewd conduct, for example, that a history of such violence exists, and that the victim needs protection.

Ways to Challenge a Restraining Order in NJ

To overcome the necessary elements for a permanent protection order in New Jersey, an experienced restraining order defense attorney can help you defeat the plaintiff’s story and credibility. Your counsel may present evidence to show that a predicate act of domestic violence did not occur. Without evidence of physical injury through medical reports, photos, or other convincing evidence, a plaintiff may not be able to convince a judge by a preponderance of the evidence that a history of domestic violence exists between the parties. If the only evidence is plaintiff’s testimony of physical injury, harassment, stalking, or other predicate act, an important element of proving their case is a mere contest of each party’s word against the other’s. In that case, cross-examination of witnesses is critical, showing the plaintiff or other witness is not credible. Defenses may involve the alleged victim’s inconsistent assertions, faulty memory, or clear bias, to name a few strategies that place a witness’s testimony in question.

By attacking the credibility of plaintiff and their witnesses, your attorney can create questions in the judge’s mind about the other element, that the plaintiff is in danger from the defendant and needs protection from the court. To further place doubt, a good lawyer can show that no evidence exists to show prior domestic violence between the parties, and there are no police reports or prior domestic violence filings with the court. After creating doubt, you can clear the way to show ulterior motives. Not only may your attorney show that the violence that the plaintiff claims occurred did not rise to the required level of domestic violence or that the plaintiff is not reasonably afraid of future violence because the accused abuser is not a threat, but may also show the domestic violence complaint was filed to derail a divorce proceeding or to win custody of the children.

New Jersey Permanent Protection Order Consequences without the Proper Defense

If a final restraining order is granted, the judge may order the defendant to stay away from the plaintiff and their household or employer, to turn over any weapons the defendant possesses, to leave the residence where the plaintiff resides, to support the plaintiff and children, if applicable, to submit to a risk assessment before visiting with children, and to attend domestic violence counseling, among other necessary orders the judge sees fit under the circumstances. Some are required orders regardless of the case. For example, the defendant will be ordered not to possess weapons, barring their ability to have a firearms purchaser identification card, which is necessary to purchase firearms in New Jersey. Restraining orders are permanent, ending only when a court terminates the order upon a clear showing that the order is no longer needed. All provisions contained in the order are active while the restraining order is in effect.

Defense Lawyer Help with a Morris County Restraining Order Case

Given the high stakes of a permanent restraining order, you probably want to retain the most experienced defense attorney to challenge the plaintiff’s claims. Since a final restraining order often means limited contact with your children, being cut off from the family life you once enjoyed, never owning a weapon, and living under the threat of prosecution for violating the restraining order, you want to make sure your lawyer knows what to do to challenge the plaintiff’s side of the story, present your side persuasively, and advocate for your rights, including visiting with your children and retrieving your possessions. Contact a New Jersey restraining order defense lawyer who often defends clients in Morris County for dedicated guidance and representation now.

Someone Pressed Charges in Morris County NJ?

When we hear about someone pressing charges against another who committed a crime, typically in movies or on television shows, we usually think of a person going to the police department or calling the police to a site and filing a complaint or registering a report. Typically, the police do take a report or investigate a crime and file a criminal complaint accusing someone of a crime or crimes, but either the police or the victim can file a criminal complaint. Then, it is the city, state or federal prosecuting attorneys who ultimately decide if a case goes forward or is dismissed.

What does it mean when a person presses charges in New Jersey?

Pressing charges against someone means making a formal accusation, which is decided in a court of law. It may start with an arrest at a crime scene if the police have probable cause to arrest someone for a crime, meaning evidence exists that a crime occurred and that the defendant committed the crime. Probable cause to arrest must be based on sufficient evidence, such as medical reports showing the victim’s injuries or police reports documenting property destruction, any video or audio evidence of the crime, or witness testimony that support the victim’s facts of the crime. A criminal complaint may be filed by the police or victim after arrest. Alternatively, the arrest may follow the filing of a criminal complaint when an arrest warrant is issued from the court.

Where does a case go when charges are filed in NJ?

Either way, the criminal complaint eventually lands in the municipal court or the county prosecutor’s office, depending on the nature of the crime and the degree of the charge or charges in question. If the defendant is charged with a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense, these cases are sent to municipal court, where municipal prosecutors there handle the case and a judge, not a jury, decides the case. The sentence maximum is 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Conversely, indictable felony charges in the first through fourth degree are sent to the prosecutor’s office for review and decision whether to plea bargain, dismiss or proceed to trial based on the evidence, severity of the crime, and the defendant’s prior record. They may decide the case should be dismissed, sent to the municipal court for disposition or prosecuted in superior court. A case may be dismissed for minor offenses committed by an accused with no prior involvement with the criminal justice system. Charges reduced to disorderly persons offenses are remanded to the the lower court, which  in criminal cases is the municipality’s court where the charges were initially filed.

If the case does go forward, a warrant is prepared by the police and signed by a judge, for the police to arrest the suspect and bring them before the court. For lesser crimes, suspects are summoned to municipal court on a specific date to appear before the judge. At their first appearance in court, the judge reads the defendant the charges and for indictable cases requiring a bail hearing, the judge decides whether to release the defendant or keep them incarcerated pending the next court hearing.

What if the state files charges in Superior Court?

In superior court, the prosecutor may first offer a plea bargain to the defendant or present the case evidence to a grand jury for review. After considering the evidence, the grand jury decides either sufficient evidence exists to proceed with the criminal action or insufficient evidence exists to go forward. If the grand jury concludes the case should not proceed, the case is dismissed as a no bill case, meaning there is insufficient evidence to indict the accused of a crime.

If indicted, the defendant is arraigned where they plead guilty or not guilty in front of the judge. A guilty plea triggers a sentencing date for the next hearing. A not-guilty plea sets off a series of future court dates, including a pre-trial and trial date. Before then, the defendant may apply to the Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI) to have the charges cleared from their record after completing the program. PTI is a rehabilitation option for those with existing clean criminal records, who have committed certain crimes. If admitted, the case basically ends with a dismissal, unless the defendant fails to complete the program, which would cause the case to be set for trial. At trial, the prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to convict. Of note: either the defendant or state may appeal the verdict.

What is the Victim’s Role when Pressing Charges in New Jersey?

The role of a crime victim is to not only set the wheels in motion by calling the police, filing a police report, and filing a criminal complaint, but they may also be to provide testimony at trial. They may have some say in plea agreements or at trial to assist the prosecutor. As to pressing charges, a victim may want the perpetrator to be prosecuted but ultimately, it is up to the prosecutor to evaluate the evidence and the circumstances to see whether guilt can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Likewise, if a victim does not want the defendant to be prosecuted, a prosecutor may still prosecute the defendant against the victim’s wishes and without the victim’s cooperation. After all, the criminal complaint is filed against the defendant in the name of the state, not the victim.

Can a Lawyer Help with my Case if Someone Files Charges against me in Morristown NJ?

Pressing charges embroils both the victim and the accused in the criminal justice system. Neither party may have ultimate control over the case proceedings. The prosecutor may have reasons for prosecuting or not prosecuting a case that do not seem just or fair. Whether you are the victim or the defendant in a criminal investigation or action, you have rights that a qualified criminal defense attorney can protect while advancing your interests in a criminal proceeding from beginning to end. Find the right advocate for your needs. Contact us now to speak with a lawyer who can advise and assist you. Consultations are free of charge.

Additional Information:

You had a terrible fight that turned physical and your wife got a restraining order against you. But things were settling down and she agreed to let you come over and get some of your belongings at the house. Before long, the two of you were arguing, and she called the police. Now, you have been charged with contempt for violating the restraining order. Situations like these happen on a regular basis across the state, leading to legal troubles for individuals from all walks of life. It may have even happened to you. Here is everything you need to know about restraining order violations in New Jersey.

Is Violating a Restraining Order a Crime in NJ?

A violation of a restraining order is considered criminal contempt. The punishment, however, depends on whether the violation of the restraining order is also a separate crime or a disorderly persons offense. If a separate crime, the violation is classified as a fourth degree crime, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and $10,000.00 in fines. If the violation is not a separate crime or offense, the violation is a disorderly persons offense, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000.00 fine.

So, for instance, if a husband violates a restraining order by stalking or harassing the protected person, the wife, the contempt is based on the additional crime of stalking or harassment, specifically listed in the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act as an indictable crime of domestic violence, and is therefore a fourth degree crime. Merely texting the wife, however, does not constitute a separate crime, so the husband would be charged with a disorderly persons offense. If a second offense, however, the violator is required to spend 30 days in jail after their immediate arrest.

Violating a protective order has serious consequences. So, how does one get a New Jersey protective order in the first place?

Anyone over 18 years of age or an emancipated minor, who has been a victim of one or more of the enumerated crimes listed in the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, may get a restraining order against an intimate partner, which includes a spouse, former spouse, date, former date, parent of the applicant’s child, or against a household member, by applying for one to the court. Upon review by a judge, if the application is approved, a temporary restraining order is granted. The order serves the purpose of forbidding the abuser to contact or come near the protected party and their household and workplace. It may also come with additional orders, such as child support, child custody, or financial support. Weapons confiscation is also required when a person is accused of domestic violence and facing a restraining order.

A temporary restraining order (TRO) is typically filed with a domestic violence complaint in the Superior Court, Family Division, nearest to where the act or acts of domestic violence allegedly occurred. A victim may file the complaint, with the assistance of court staff, or the police may file the complaint if called out to a domestic violence crime scene. The police may assist a victim with filing the complaint and TRO at the police station, also, and may file a criminal complaint against the alleged abuser. In this case, the police contact the closest municipal court judge to grant the TRO in person or over the phone. The victim may also file a criminal complaint in the Superior Court against the alleged abuser. The TRO application, however, is filed and heard in Family Court, typically on an emergency basis in absence of the person named as the defendant.

If only a temporary restraining order has been granted, can you still violate it in New Jersey?

You can violate any restraining order in New Jersey, regardless of whether it is temporary or permanent. If the TRO is granted, law enforcement serves the defendant with the order and notice to appear in court for the final hearing. They also confiscate the defendant’s firearms at that time, and, if the defendant resides with the victim, law enforcement makes the defendant leave the residence. A hearing for the final restraining order (FRO) is generally held within 10 days following the temporary order.

At that hearing, the applicant and the named defendant appear to present evidence to the court, including witnesses, as to why the order should or should not be final. The court must assess whether the parties are those qualified under the Act and if one of the crimes listed under the Act occurred and are likely to occur again. If granted, the final restraining order becomes permanent. The defendant’s photo and fingerprints then become part of the police database and the defendant is forbidden from owning a firearm. The FRO remains in effect until one of the parties returns to court to get the order dismissed, which is not easy. The court is critical of either party seeking to remove an existing restraining order. For this reason, the process of dissolving a restraining order is best handled by a knowledgeable attorney.

Unless a motion to vacate a restraining order has been granted, the person subject to the order must follow its rules or risk being charged with a violation.

Accused of a NJ Restraining Order Violation, What Should I do?

The consequences for violating a restraining order, whether it be a temporary order or a final protection order, are life-altering. In fact, criminal contempt conviction can potentially restrict your freedoms for life. If you have been accused of violating a restraining order in Mendham, Chatham, Madison, Morristown, Boonton, Rockaway, Mount Olive, or elsewhere in the Morris County area, contact an experienced lawyer now for a free consultation. We are highly familiar with criminal contempt in domestic violence matters, and we can help you defend your rights and protect your liberty.

You have been charged with assault after a dispute with your ex-wife or ex-girlfriend turned violent. You did not hurt her, but she called the police anyhow because she said she was scared and needed protection against you. Now you are worried about what will happen to you next. These types of events happen on a regular basis throughout New Jersey. Sometimes, the allegations are founded. Other times, not. Despite the diversity among domestic violence assault cases, everyone involved in these situations should be informed and aware of certain critical information. To that end, here are some things you may need to know about assault and domestic violence in New Jersey.

Assault: A Predicate Act of Domestic Violence

Assault in New Jersey (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1) is a serious crime, whether you have committed simple or aggravated assault. Simple assault is intentionally or recklessly injuring another physically or negligently placing another in fear of bodily harm. A simple assault becomes aggravated assault when committed against certain people or under certain circumstances. Aggravated assault is intentionally, recklessly, or negligently causing another serious physical harm with malice or callous disregard for their lives. Aggravated assault may be committed with a weapon, a vehicle, or other threatening device, like a laser or a fake gun. The intention to harm, threaten harm, or recklessly behave, like setting off an explosion, characterizes the crime. If convicted, you face imprisonment and fines.

Simple assault is a disorderly persons offense, with punishments that include six months in jail and a $1,000.00 fine, and is handled in the Municipal Court. Unlike simple assault, aggravated assault is an indictable crime handled in the Superior Courts. Aggravated assault may be second, third, or fourth degree crimes, depending on the type and circumstances of the assault. For example, when an assault occurs while fleeing a crime scene, it’s a second degree crime, punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison and a $150,000.00 fine, but assault with a deadly weapon or pointing a gun at a police officer is a third degree crime that comes with a three to five year prison sentence and a$15,000.00 fine.

Assault is Grounds for a Restraining Order in New Jersey

In addition to imprisonment and heavy fines, assault may lead to more serious consequences when committed against a person who qualifies as a victim of domestic violence under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. If physical force or a weapon is used to harm or threaten harm to a spouse, former spouse, dating partner or former dating partner, sibling, parent, or household member, a victim of domestic violence may obtain a protective order restraining the abuser from contacting the victim and the victim’s household, including mutual children.

A victim may obtain the restraining order by reporting the assault to the police or filing a domestic violence action in the Superior Court, Family Division. A separate criminal complaint for the assault (or other crimes committed) may also be filed in the criminal courts against the person accused, by the police or the victim. Restraining orders not only prevent an abuser from coming near or contacting the victim and their household but may include support, reparations, and counseling. Restraining orders also come with weapons forfeiture orders for the defendant. A final restraining order is permanent, unless the person restrained by the order successfully completes a motion to vacate the final restraining order.

Detention Hearings for Domestic Violence Assault in NJ

Moreover, if the police are called to the scene of domestic violence and the accused is arrested, they may be detained in jail until the court determines whether the accused can be released or must stay in jail until a plea is entered or the case concludes. All domestic violence defendants, whether for simple or aggravated assault, are subject to detention hearings per New Jersey’s Criminal Reform Act, which eliminated monetary bail. So, if a judge determines that the defendant should not be released, they could stay in jail until the conclusion of the criminal trial and longer still if convicted. If the person is released, they must report to court for the pre-trial hearings and trial in their criminal case.

If released and they contact the victim holding a restraining order, the defendant is in for even worse trouble. A violation of a restraining order results in a separate crime, contempt of court, and may compound the criminal charges against the person. Criminal contempt is usually a fourth degree crime if it involves the commission of some type of disorderly persons or felony offense. If convicted, these charges are punishable by 18 months in jail and a $10,000.00 fine, but it also may be a parole or probation violation, which means longer, harsher sentences. Additionally, another arrest and detention hearing are more likely to result in an extended jail stay until the conclusion of the trial on the criminal contempt.

Facing Assault Allegations for Domestic Violence in NJ

Clearly, you can see that a simple or aggravated assault, which is also an act of domestic violence, can potentially entangle you in the criminal and civil courts of New Jersey for a long time. Retaining an experienced NJ criminal and domestic violence attorney to defend you against an assault charge in the municipal and superior courts, as well as a restraining order trial, is important to ensure that you are treated fairly and within your legal rights throughout the criminal process. Contact us to speak with an attorney who can handle all components of your domestic violence case, including criminal court for assault and family court for a restraining order. Consultations are free and we look forward to hearing from you.