By: Karolina Dehnhard, Esq.
Legislature finds and declares that domestic violence is a serious crime against society; that there are thousands of persons in this State who are regularly beaten, tortured and in some cases even killed by their spouses or cohabitants.” Thus opens the first provision of the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991, initially enacted by the New Jersey Legislature in April 1982 and revised, at times substantially, since then.
The Domestic Violence Act was created to protect some of the most vulnerable segments of society. However, domestic violence can appear in all shapes and sizes. It was the intention of the Legislature “to assure the victims of domestic violence the maximum protection from abuse the law can provide.” This includes 24/7/365 access to the police, the courts and the Halls of Justice. Pursuant to the Statute, “when a person claims to be a victim of domestic violence, and where a law enforcement officer responding to the incident finds probable cause to believe that domestic violence has occurred, the law enforcement officer shall arrest the person” who is alleged to be the perpetrator. The operative word used in the statute is “shall,” it is not “may” or “might.”
Therefore, any improper or undue interference with a victim seeking the protection of the police or judicial system could be construed as interfering with the rights of the victim and improperly attempting to influence those charged by the Legislature to protect the most vulnerable.
With the above definition and backdrop in mind, domestic violence manifests itself in many ways, particularly in the field of family law. It may be by one spouse pressuring the often “weaker” spouse to capitulate to their terms, or subjecting them to “consequences.” For example, a spouse threatening another spouse in the context of divorce. It could be as simple, or as serious, as one spouse being physically violent with the other, following them around town, interfering with their employment, or assaulting them.
Read, ‘What to Look For in a Divorce Attorney’ here: http://bit.ly/2IBgLjL
Once a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is issued, the Court provides for a short window before a final hearing is held. The entry of a Final Restraining Order has grave consequences. For example, some can result in a lawyer losing their license to practice law, a doctor can lose his medical license, and members of law enforcement can lose their ability to carry a weapon. Any person found guilty of committing an act of domestic violence is fingerprinted and placed in a central database, where their name can be located by law enforcement. Further, and very relevant in today’s political climate, a charge of domestic violence has very serious immigration consequences because it is a ground for removal. The Immigration and Nationality Act specifically says that any foreign national, i.e. anyone except a U.S. citizen, who is convicted or pleads guilty to a crime of domestic violence, can be removed. Even if the aggressor has a green card, if that person has been here less than 7 years, they will be removed back to their native country. If someone is here illegally (or has overstayed their visa), his or her removal is almost guaranteed. These ramifications are not always at the forefront of the mind of the victim when seeking the protection of the Courts.
When faced with severe consequences, it is no surprise that many of the individuals charged with an act of domestic violence seek to resolve the issue amicably by way of a Consent Order or Civil Restraints. While the victim has to consent to the dismissal of the TRO, the decision often comes with the reality of living with the consequences of not agreeing to do so. Moreover, the cycle of violence, whether physical or psychological, often results in the victim having a sense of remorse, or second-guessing their decision to seek protection out of fear for their physical safety or financial well-being if the aggressor is to lose their job or be deported.