Examining Domestic Violence from a Felony or Misdemeanor Perspective in NJ

In New Jersey, crimes are delineated into two types: non-indictable, or misdemeanor crimes; and indictable, or felony crimes. The severity of the alleged crime will determine whether a person is charged with a non-indictable or indictable offense. The penalties vary greatly between the two. In many states, domestic violence is a criminal charge unto itself. However, New Jersey law instead augments other filed charges to include a domestic violence component if they involve a person protected under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991. If a criminal offense is categorized as an act of domestic violence, then a criminal action and a civil action in the form of a restraining order may apply. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, known as a disorderly persons offense, or a felony crime of the first, second, third, or fourth degree for domestic violence in New Jersey, contact our firm immediately to discuss your next steps.

Ramifications of Domestic Violence Charges

Domestic violence can be considered a misdemeanor offense or a felony offense, both of which result in a criminal record upon conviction. A felony offense is considered more severe, meaning more potential jail time and steeper fines. Domestic violence convictions can also lead to loss of child custody and visitation rights, the constitutional right to own a firearm, and more. When determining the specific penalties, one must first identify the offense itself.

Navigating Domestic Violence Offenses Under New Jersey Law

According to N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19a, domestic violence offenses pertain to disorderly persons offenses or indictable charges involving a person protected by the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991. Offenses that qualify under the Act include homicide, assault, terroristic threats, kidnapping, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespassing, harassment, cyber harassment, stalking, criminal coercion, robbery, contempt of a domestic violence order, and any other crime risking death or serious physical injury to someone protected under the Act.

Legal Repercussions Arising from Domestic Violence Offenses in NJ

Domestic violence crimes lead to serious penalties. If the offense results in an indictable charge, penalties range depending on the severity of the felony. A fourth-degree conviction can result in 18 months behind bars and up to a $10,000 fine. A third-degree conviction brings three to five years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines. The penalty for a second-degree felony conviction is between five and ten years in prison and up to $150,000 in fines. A first-degree domestic violence conviction can result in up to 20 years in prison and as many as $20,000 in fines. Some offenses, such as kidnapping, entail even longer potential sentences.

Factors Elevating Domestic Violence to Felony Charges

Factors that can contribute to a domestic violence offense being a felony charge include the alleged abuser’s use of weapons or strangulation, their causing serious physical injury to a victim, or their violation of a restraining order by committing another act of domestic violence.

Distinct Treatment of Misdemeanors and Felonies in the New Jersey Court System

Non-indictable misdemeanors and indictable felonies are handled very differently in the New Jersey criminal court system. Felonies are heard by New Jersey Superior courts. Misdemeanors are heard in Municipal courts. The process involved, as well, is different depending on the severity of the charge. For example, a prosecutor must seek an indictment from the a Grand Jury to pursue the felony charge against an individual. Felony cases are heard before a jury of one’s peers who determine guilt and innocence. On the other hand, misdemeanor domestic violence charges that are heard at the Municipal court level are heard by a judge alone.

Our Defense Lawyers Work to Prevent Domestic Violence Convictions in Morris County, NJ

Domestic violence convictions can have lifelong negative effects. In addition to facing severe penalties such as long jail or prison terms and outrageous fines, you may be unable to expunge a domestic violence conviction from your criminal record depending on the offense, meaning that future employers will be able to see your conviction when they run a background check, and you’ll be ineligible to own a firearm in the state. If you are facing a domestic violence charge, you need the immediate and comprehensive representation of a qualified domestic violence defense attorney.

Our team at is dedicated to helping individuals in Randolph, Florham Park, Parsippany, East Hanover, Chatham, and other towns in the Morris County area to defend their rights and remain a productive and successful member of society after a domestic violence charge. Contact us today at 973-524-7238 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your charges.