Every year, New Jersey lawmakers introduce multiple bills to increase criminal charges or create new definitions of crime. This year is no different. In our last blog post, we discussed a bill that passed the Senate that would increase criminal charges for false incrimination. Today, we will discuss a bill introduced in the Assembly that would make it a crime to commit domestic violence in front of children.
“Wait,” you may think, “Isn’t domestic violence already a crime?”
Yes, but many people do not believe it goes far enough. This bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Celeste Riley, would add to the penalties that someone already faced for domestic violence. It would make it an additional fourth degree crime to commit an act of domestic violence in front of a child 16 years or younger if that act is considered a “disorderly persons offense” or a “petty offense.” A fourth degree crime can put someone in prison for up to 18 months and carries up to $10,000 in fines.
If, however, the domestic violence is charged at a higher degree, then this new offense would be graded one degree higher than the underlying crime. In other words, if a defendant faced a fourth degree domestic violence charge, he or she would also face a third degree offense for committing the act in front of a child 16 years old or younger.
Furthermore, if a defendant is acquitted of a domestic violence charge – the prosecutor drops the charges or a judge finds the defendant innocent, for example – he or she may still be convicted of domestic violence in front of a child.
Domestic violence is often a grey area of law that becomes a “he said,” “she said” battle in the courtroom. Yet, defendants face an uphill battle trying to prove their innocence or the other party’s guilt. In New Jersey, police must arrest someone if they are called to a home and see any signs of injury. A person accused of domestic violence can face time in prison, large fines, restraining orders and even child custody / visitation consequences.
Domestic violence is a serious charge even if the new bill does not become law, which makes it all the more imperative for anyone accused of domestic violence to present a strong defense.
Source: New Jersey 101.5, “Domestic violence in front of children could become a crime in New Jersey,” Kelly Waldron, Sept, 2012.