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.