The Domestic Violence Act
The protective measures set forth in the Domestic Violence Act in New Jersey are considered some of the foremost in the country. In 1991, the Legislature passed the Domestic Violence Act, based upon numerous studies and findings that domestic violence is a serious crime against society in New Jersey. The state legislature came to the conclusion that each year in New Jersey thousands of people were beaten, tortured and even killed by their spouses or other cohabitants. Victims of domestic violence come from all different types of social and economic backgrounds. One of the more frightening statistics was that a significant number of these victims were women and even many that were pregnant at the time of the assault or attack. The main goal of the Domestic Violence Act is to stop abuse in the household since there is a strong correlation between spousal abuse and child abuse, which is the deep-rooted cause of severe and deep lasting emotional distress from exposure to domestic violence. Another category specifically protected under the act is the elderly and disabled, who are considered especially vulnerable, and are commonly victims of domestic abuse. The Legislature recognized that existing criminal statues such as simple assault, harassment, and terroristic threats were already in place but it did not provide the necessary safeguards for domestic violence victims. The Domestic Violence Act provides help by allowing victims to initiate a Temporary Restraining Order at the time of the incident and have a Final Restraining Order Hearing at a later date. Moreover, if the victim declines implementing a restraining order, a judge can still put a No Contact Order in place if he/she believes the victim is in need of protection. Furthermore, the police will confiscate any weapons, including firearms, from the household and may remove the defendant from the household.
The Judiciary’s Family Case Tracking System (“FACTS”) now has the capacity to record out-of-state domestic violence restraining orders, which provides further protection to victims who have relocated to this state. A victim who moves to New Jersey and has an out-of-state restraining order to have it recognized by New Jersey Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, so that it is equally valid and enforceable in New Jersey. Moreover, New Jersey’s Domestic Violence Central Registry is now fully operational statewide. The registry gives all law enforcement agencies and family court personnel up-to-date information on all restraining orders entered into the FACTS. This registry obviously serves as a valuable tool for local police and county sheriff’s officers to help manage and enforce Temporary and Final Restraining Orders, and give protection to all victims if they move between municipalities and counties within the state. All background checks are also run through the domestic violence registry when applying for firearms identification cards or when attempting to purchase firearms. If it comes up that an individual has a prior record for domestic violence he/she will be denied the purchase of a firearm or the issuance of a firearms identification card. The database is completely funded through the Federal STOP Violence Against Women Act, (VAWA), and through inter-agency cooperation with the state judiciary, the Attorney General’s Office, the New Jersey State Police, and local law enforcement.