October represents National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Only three states in the nation have tougher domestic violence laws than New Jersey. Although the words “domestic violence” seem to speak for themselves, many really don’t understand what they mean.

“In our state, the laws actually fall under something known as the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act,” shared Jersey City attorney Anthony Carbone. “The goal of the  police and the courts is to protect victims from further abuse.”

The statistics are alarming. In 2016, the New Jersey State Police put together a report that summarized some key numbers. For starters, over 63K domestic violence offenses were reported to various law enforcement agencies throughout the state.  Apparently, the idea of “Never on Sunday” only pertains to song lyrics.  Police responded to domestic violence calls on Sunday more than any other day of the week.

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Meanwhile, numbers mean little to victims. They also suggest even less to individuals rightfully or wrongfully accused of an act of domestic violence. As far as that goes, people are often surprised that New Jersey recognizes nineteen separate actions as predicate acts of domestic violence.

Although not all alleged acts of domestic violence involve physical abuse, they all have a few things in common. First, they all correlate to a New Jersey criminal offense.  Next, they all suggest the need for intervention and protection.

“It’s also important to understand that the nature of the victim’s relationship matters when it comes to domestic violence complaints,” explained Attorney Carbone. “This matters when it comes to making an application for a restraining order.”

Under New Jersey law, present and former spouses qualify as domestic violence victims eligible for protection orders. Additionally, anyone over the age of 18 who has been subjected to domestic violence by a present or former household member can file a domestic violence complaint. Of course, the latter would include parents and children, as well as sibling relationships.

Domestic violence laws also pertain to people who have a child in common or anticipate the birth of one, if one of the parties is pregnant.  Meanwhile, it just takes one date for a victim to qualify for protection under the law.

“Emancipated minors may also meet the criteria for intervention under the state’s domestic violence laws,” Carbone said. “This generally applies when a minor has been married or entered the military.  A person under 18 who is pregnant or has a child is also considered emancipated for this purpose.”

In some cases, an administrative agency or court may declare someone under the age of 18 to be emancipated.  However, if the person accused of domestic violence is under 18 and not emancipated, it becomes an act of juvenile delinquency.

 Part I of this series identifies who qualifies for protection under New Jersey’s Domestic Violence Laws. In Part II, readers will learn what New Jersey considers as acts of domestic violence.  A local police detective will explain the protocol followed in domestic violence complaints.   And, there’s more after that.

Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at sfaughnan@tapinto.net.

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