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2C:25-19. Definitions

 

As used in this act:

 

a. “Domestic violence” means the occurrence of one or more of the following acts inflicted upon a person protected under this act by an adult or an emancipated minor:

 

(1) Homicide N.J.S.2C:11-1 et seq.

 

(2) Assault N.J.S.2C:12-1

 

(3) Terroristic threats N.J.S.2C:12-3

 

(4) Kidnapping N.J.S.2C:13-1

 

(5) Criminal restraint N.J.S.2C:13-2

 

(6) False imprisonment N.J.S.2C:13-3

 

(7) Sexual assault N.J.S.2C:14-2

 

(8) Criminal sexual contact N.J.S.2C:14-3

 

(9) Lewdness N.J.S.2C:14-4

 

(10) Criminal mischief N.J.S.2C:17-3

 

(11) Burglary N.J.S.2C:18-2

 

(12) Criminal trespass N.J.S.2C:18-3

 

(13) Harassment N.J.S.2C:33-4

 

(14) Stalking P.L.1992, c. 209 (C.2C:12-10)

 

(15) Criminal coercion N.J.S.2C:13-5

 

(16) Robbery N.J.S.2C:15-1

 

(17) Contempt of a domestic violence order pursuant to subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:29-9 that constitutes a crime or disorderly persons offense

 

(18) Any other crime involving risk of death or serious bodily injury to a person protected under the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991,” P.L.1991, c. 261 (C.2C:25-17 et al.)

 

(19) Cyber-harassment P.L.2013, c. 272 (C.2C:33–4.1)

 

When one or more of these acts is inflicted by an unemancipated minor upon a person protected under this act, the occurrence shall not constitute “domestic violence,” but may be the basis for the filing of a petition or complaint pursuant to the provisions of section 11 of P.L.1982, c. 77 (C.2A:4A-30).

 

b. “Law enforcement agency” means a department, division, bureau, commission, board or other authority of the State or of any political subdivision thereof which employs law enforcement officers.

 

c. “Law enforcement officer” means a person whose public duties include the power to act as an officer for the detection, apprehension, arrest and conviction of offenders against the laws of this State.

 

d. “Victim of domestic violence” means a person protected under this act and shall include any person who is 18 years of age or older or who is an emancipated minor and who has been subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or any other person who is a present household member or was at any time a household member. “Victim of domestic violence” also includes any person, regardless of age, who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has a child in common, or with whom the victim anticipates having a child in common, if one of the parties is pregnant. “Victim of domestic violence” also includes any person who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship.

 

e. “Emancipated minor” means a person who is under 18 years of age but who has been married, has entered military service, has a child or is pregnant or has been previously declared by a court or an administrative agency to be emancipated.

2C:25-21. Arrest; criminal complaint; seizure of weapons

 

a. 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 person who subjected the victim to domestic violence and shall sign a criminal complaint if:

 

(1)The victim exhibits signs of injury caused by an act of domestic violence;

 

(2)A warrant is in effect;

 

(3)There is probable cause to believe that the person has violated N.J.S.2C:29-9, and there is probable cause to believe that the person has been served with the order alleged to have been violated. If the victim does not have a copy of a purported order, the officer may verify the existence of an order with the appropriate law enforcement agency; or

 

(4)There is probable cause to believe that a weapon as defined in N.J.S.2C:39-1 has been involved in the commission of an act of domestic violence.

 

b.A law enforcement officer may arrest a person; or may sign a criminal complaint against that person, or may do both, where there is probable cause to believe that an act of domestic violence has been committed, but where none of the conditions in subsection a. of this section applies.

 

c. (1) As used in this section, the word “exhibits” is to be liberally construed to mean any indication that a victim has suffered bodily injury, which shall include physical pain or any impairment of physical condition. Where the victim exhibits no visible sign of injury, but states that an injury has occurred, the officer should consider other relevant factors in determining whether there is probable cause to make an arrest.

 

(2)In determining which party in a domestic violence incident is the victim where both parties exhibit signs of injury, the officer should consider the comparative extent of the injuries, the history of domestic violence between the parties, if any, and any other relevant factors.

 

(3)No victim shall be denied relief or arrested or charged under this act with an offense because the victim used reasonable force in self defense against domestic violence by an attacker.

 

d. (1) In addition to a law enforcement officer’s authority to seize any weapon that is contraband, evidence or an instrumentality of crime, a law enforcement officer who has probable cause to believe that an act of domestic violence has been committed shall:

 

(a)question persons present to determine whether there are weapons on the premises; and

 

(b)upon observing or learning that a weapon is present on the premises, seize any weapon that the officer reasonably believes would expose the victim to a risk of serious bodily injury. If a law enforcement officer seizes any firearm pursuant to this paragraph, the officer shall also seize any firearm purchaser identification card or permit to purchase a handgun issued to the person accused of the act of domestic violence.

 

(2)A law enforcement officer shall deliver all weapons, firearms purchaser identification cards and permits to purchase a handgun seized pursuant to this section to the county prosecutor and shall append an inventory of all seized items to the domestic violence report.

 

(3)Weapons seized in accordance with the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991”, P.L.1991,c.261(C.2C:25-17 et seq.) shall be returned to the owner except upon order of the Superior Court. The prosecutor who has possession of the seized weapons may, upon notice to the owner, petition a judge of the Family Part of the Superior Court, Chancery Division, within 45 days of seizure, to obtain title to the seized weapons, or to revoke any and all permits, licenses and other authorizations for the use, possession, or ownership of such weapons pursuant to the law governing such use, possession, or ownership, or may object to the return of the weapons on such grounds as are provided for the initial rejection or later revocation of the authorizations, or on the grounds that the owner is unfit or that the owner poses a threat to the public in general or a person or persons in particular.

 

A hearing shall be held and a record made thereof within 45 days of the notice provided above. No formal pleading and no filing fee shall be required as a preliminary to such hearing. The hearing shall be summary in nature. Appeals from the results of the hearing shall be to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, in accordance with the law.

 

If the prosecutor does not institute an action within 45 days of seizure, the seized weapons shall be returned to the owner.

 

After the hearing the court shall order the return of the firearms, weapons and any authorization papers relating to the seized weapons to the owner if the court determines the owner is not subject to any of the disabilities set forth in N.J.S.2C:58-3c. and finds that the complaint has been dismissed at the request of the complainant and the prosecutor determines that there is insufficient probable cause to indict; or if the defendant is found not guilty of the charges; or if the court determines that the domestic violence situation no longer exists.Nothing in this act shall impair the right of the State to retain evidence pending a criminal prosecution. Nor shall any provision of this act be construed to limit the authority of the State or a law enforcement officer to seize, retain or forfeit property pursuant to chapter 64 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes.

 

If, after the hearing, the court determines that the weapons are not to be returned to the owner, the court may:

 

(a)With respect to weapons other than firearms, order the prosecutor to dispose of the weapons if the owner does not arrange for the transfer or sale of the weapons to an appropriate person within 60 days; or

 

(b)Order the revocation of the owner’s firearms purchaser identification card or any permit, license or authorization, in which case the court shall order the owner to surrender any firearm seized and all other firearms possessed to the prosecutor and shall order the prosecutor to dispose of the firearms if the owner does not arrange for the sale of the firearms to a registered dealer of the firearms within 60 days; or

 

(c)Order such other relief as it may deem appropriate. When the court orders the weapons forfeited to the State or the prosecutor is required to dispose of the weapons, the prosecutor shall dispose of the property as provided in N.J.S.2C:64-6.

 

(4)A civil suit may be brought to enjoin a wrongful failure to return a seized firearm where the prosecutor refuses to return the weapon after receiving a written request to do so and notice of the owner’s intent to bring a civil action pursuant to this section. Failure of the prosecutor to comply with the provisions of this act shall entitle the prevailing party in the civil suit to reasonable costs, including attorney’s fees, provided that the court finds that the prosecutor failed to act in good faith in retaining the seized weapon.

 

(5)No law enforcement officer or agency shall be held liable in any civil action brought by any person for failing to learn of, locate or seize a weapon pursuant to this act, or for returning a seized weapon to its owner.

2C:25-25. Criminal complaint; effect of dissolution of marriage, civil proceedings, or leaving residence; waiver of disclosure of victim's location

 

The court in a criminal complaint arising from a domestic violence incident:

 

a. Shall not dismiss any charge or delay disposition of a case because of concurrent dissolution of a marriage, other civil proceedings, or because the victim has left the residence to avoid further incidents of domestic violence;

 

b. Shall not require proof that either party is seeking a dissolution of a marriage prior to institution of criminal proceedings;

 

c. Shall waive any requirement that the victim’s location be disclosed to any person.

2C:25-26. Release from custody before trial; restraining orders; confidentiality of victim's location; bail

 

a. When a defendant charged with a crime or offense involving domestic violence is released from custody before trial on bail or personal recognizance, the court authorizing the release may as a condition of release issue an order prohibiting the defendant from having any contact with the victim including, but not limited to, restraining the defendant from entering the victim’s residence, place of employment or business, or school, and from harassing or stalking the victim or the victim’s friends, co-workers, or relatives in any way. The court may also enter an order prohibiting the defendant from having any contact with any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by either party or a minor child residing in the household. In addition, the court may enter an order directing the possession of the animal and providing that the animal shall not be disposed of prior to the disposition of the crime or offense. The court may enter an order prohibiting the defendant from possessing any firearm or other weapon enumerated in subsection r. of N.J.S.2C:39-1 and ordering the search for and seizure of any such weapon at any location where the judge has reasonable cause to believe the weapon is located. The judge shall state with specificity the reasons for and scope of the search and seizure authorized by the order.

 

b. The written court order releasing the defendant shall contain the court’s directives specifically restricting the defendant’s ability to have contact with the victim , the victim’s friends, co-workers, or relatives, or any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by either party or a minor child residing in the household. The clerk of the court or other person designated by the court shall provide a copy of this order to the victim forthwith.

 

c. The victim’s location shall remain confidential and shall not appear on any documents or records to which the defendant has access.

 

d. Before bail is set, the defendant’s prior record shall be considered by the court. The court shall also conduct a search of the domestic violence central registry. Bail shall be set as soon as is feasible, but in all cases within 24 hours of arrest.

 

e. Once bail is set it shall not be reduced without prior notice to the county prosecutor and the victim. Bail shall not be reduced by a judge other than the judge who originally ordered bail, unless the reasons for the amount of the original bail are available to the judge who reduces the bail and are set forth in the record.

 

f. A victim shall not be prohibited from applying for, and a court shall not be prohibited from issuing, temporary restraints pursuant to this act because the victim has charged any person with commission of a criminal act.

2C:25-26.1. Notification of victim of release of defendant charged with crime involving domestic violence

 

Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, whenever a defendant charged with a crime or an offense involving domestic violence is released from custody the prosecuting agency shall notify the victim.

2C:25-30. Violation of order; contempt proceedings; subsequent offenses

 

Except as provided below, a violation by the defendant of an order issued pursuant to this act shall constitute an offense under subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:29-9 and each order shall so state. All contempt proceedings conducted pursuant to N.J.S.2C:29-9 involving domestic violence orders, other than those constituting indictable offenses, shall be heard by the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court. All contempt proceedings brought pursuant to P.L.1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-17 et seq.) shall be subject to any rules or guidelines established by the Supreme Court to guarantee the prompt disposition of criminal matters. Additionally, and notwithstanding the term of imprisonment provided in N.J.S.2C:43-8, any person convicted of a second or subsequent nonindictable domestic violence contempt offense shall serve a minimum term of not less than 30 days. Orders entered pursuant to paragraphs (3), (4), (5), (8) and (9) of subsection b. of section 13 of this act shall be excluded from enforcement under subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:29-9; however, violations of these orders may be enforced in a civil or criminal action initiated by the plaintiff or by the court, on its own motion, pursuant to applicable court rules.

2C:25-31. Contempt of order; arrest and custody of defendant

 

Where a law enforcement officer finds that there is probable cause that a defendant has committed contempt of an order entered pursuant to the provisions of P.L.1981, c.426 (C.2C:25-1 et seq.) or P.L.1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-17 et seq.), the defendant shall be arrested and taken into custody by a law enforcement officer. The law enforcement officer shall follow these procedures:

 

The law enforcement officer shall transport the defendant to the police station or such other place as the law enforcement officer shall determine is proper. The law enforcement officer shall:

 

a. Conduct a search of the domestic violence central registry and sign a complaint concerning the incident which gave rise to the contempt charge;

 

b. Telephone or communicate in person or by facsimile with the appropriate judge assigned pursuant to this act and request bail be set on the contempt charge;

 

c. If the defendant is unable to meet the bail set, take the necessary steps to insure that the defendant shall be incarcerated at police headquarters or at the county jail; and

 

d. During regular court hours, the defendant shall have bail set by a Superior Court judge that day. On weekends, holidays and other times when the court is closed, the officer shall arrange to have the clerk of the Family Part notified on the next working day of the new complaint, the amount of bail, the defendant’s whereabouts and all other necessary details. In addition, if a municipal court judge set the bail, the arresting officer shall notify the clerk of that municipal court of this information.

What types of restraining orders are there? How long do they last?

 

In New Jersey, there are two types of restraining orders:

 

Temporary restraining order (TRO)

When you file a complaint for a restraining order, you can ask for a temporary ex parte restraining order (TRO) to be issued immediately. A judge can grant you a TRO if s/he finds that it is necessary to protect your life, health, or well-being. The order will last until the hearing for a final restraining order, which is generally scheduled within 10 days.1 (An “ex parte” TRO means that the judge will make this decision based only on the information you provide, without the abuser being in court and without prior notice to him/her.)

 

If you cannot be physically present in court, a judge can issue a TRO upon:

 

your sworn testimony or complaint; or

upon the sworn testimony or complaint of a person who represents you if you are physically or mentally incapable of filing personally.

The judge must believe, however, that there are sufficiently urgent (exigent) circumstances to excuse your failure to appear personally in court.2

Final restraining order

After a hearing in which you both have an opportunity to tell your side of the story through testimony, evidence, and witnesses, a judge can grant you a final restraining order. A final restraining order has no end date and can last forever – or until one of one of the parties files a legal motion in court asking the judge to end or modify (change) the order and the judge agrees.4

 

1 N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a)

2 N.J. Stat. § 2C:25-28(h)

3 N.J. Stat. § 2C:25-28(f),(i)

4 N.J. Stat. § 2C:25-29(d)

2C:25-34 Domestic violence restraining orders, central registry.

 

1.The Administrative Office of the Courts shall establish and maintain a central registry of all persons who have had domestic violence restraining orders entered against them, all persons who have been charged with a crime or offense involving domestic violence, and all persons who have been charged with a violation of a court order involving domestic violence. All records made pursuant to this section shall be kept confidential and shall be released only to:

 

a.A public agency authorized to investigate a report of domestic violence;

 

b.A police or other law enforcement agency investigating a report of domestic violence, or conducting a background investigation involving a person's application for a firearm permit or employment as a police or law enforcement officer or for any other purpose authorized by law or the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey; 

 

c.A court, upon its finding that access to such records may be necessary for determination of an issue before the court; 

 

d.A surrogate, in that person's official capacity as deputy clerk of the Superior Court, in order to prepare documents that may be necessary for a court to determine an issue in an adoption proceeding; or

 

e.The Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families when the division is conducting a background investigation involving:

 

(1)an allegation of child abuse or neglect, to include any adult member of the same household as the individual who is the subject of the abuse or neglect allegation; or

 

(2)an out-of-home placement for a child being placed by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, to include any adult member of the prospective placement household.

 

Any individual, agency, surrogate, or court which receives from the Administrative Office of the Courts the records referred to in this section shall keep the records and reports, or parts thereof, confidential and shall not disseminate or disclose such records and reports, or parts thereof; provided that nothing in this section shall prohibit a receiving individual, agency, surrogate or court from disclosing records and reports, or parts thereof, in a manner consistent with and in furtherance of the purpose for which the records and reports or parts thereof were received.

 

Any individual who disseminates or discloses a record or report, or parts thereof, of the central registry, for a purpose other than investigating a report of domestic violence, conducting a background investigation involving a person's application for a firearm permit or employment as a police or law enforcement officer, making a determination of an issue before the court, conducting a background investigation as specified in subsection e. of this section, or for any other purpose other than that which is authorized by law or the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey, shall be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.

 

L.1999, c.421, s.1; amended 2003, c.286, s.1; 2006, c.47, s.26; 2012, c.16, s.9.