DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DEFENSE
KENNETH VERCAMMEN & ASSOCIATES, PC
ATTORNEY AT LAW
2053 Woodbridge Ave.
Edison, NJ 08817
(Fax) 732-572-0030 website: www.njlaws.com
by Kenneth A. Vercammen, Esq.
New Jersey domestic violence laws are very strict. A spouse or girlfriend could call the police and if there are any signs of physical injuries the police must arrest the man. Even without independent witnesses and no physical injuries, police may arrest the man. The police are required to give the victim information about their rights and to help them. Among other things, police must write up a report. For example, O.J. Simpson would not have gotten away with abuse in New Jersey. Police are automatically required to arrest an abuser if they see any evidence of abuse or assault.
Even during the evening, your town Municipal Court or Superior Court can issue a Restraining Order which is a legally enforceable document. The Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) will prohibit the defendant/abuser from any contact with the victim or entering the residence.
Unlike a criminal case where a person is provided with lengthy due process rights, and if guilty receives probation and a monetary fine, a domestic violence hearing allows judges to issue far reaching orders. A domestic violence hearing is usually held within only ten (10) days after the filing of an ex parte complaint and temporary restraining order. After a hearing, NJSA 2C:25-29 (b) allows the Chancery Division, Family Part Judge to grant substantial relief to the complainant.
Our Supreme Court has already found that the ten-day provision comports with the requirements of due process, but can be delayed.
In H.E.S. v. J.C.S., 175 N.J. 309, 323 (2003), the Court held:
“the ten-day provision does not preclude a continuance where fundamental fairness dictates allowing a defendant additional time. Indeed, to the extent that compliance with the ten-day provision precludes meaningful notice and an opportunity to defend, the provision must yield to due process requirements.” [Internal quotations and citations omitted.]
Discovery not mandatory in Domestic Violence family cases
Domestic violence actions are "summary actions," a fact that inherently precludes the right to discovery. See, e.g., H.E.S., supra, 175 N.J. at 323. However, the Appellate Division in Crespo v Crespo 408 NJ Super. 25 (App. Div. 2009) noted that one trial court has determined that, in accordance with Rule 5:5-1(d), a defendant may seek leave to obtain discovery in such a matter upon a showing of good cause. Depos v. Depos, 307 N.J. Super. 396, 400 (Ch. Div. 1997). The Appellate Court agreed with the opinion of Judge Dilts in Depos that in compelling circumstances, where a partys ability to adequately present evidence during a domestic violence action may be significantly impaired, a trial judge may, in the exercise of sound discretion, permit limited discovery in order to prevent an injustice. Judges are not required to be oblivious to a partys claim for discovery in compelling circumstances even though the court rules do not expressly authorize relief. See, e.g., Kellam v. Feliciano, 376 N.J. Super. 580, 587 (App. Div. 2005).
The Crespo court held “Here, the record reveals that at no time did defendant seek leave to conduct any discovery proceedings.” Therefore, it is important for defense counsel to demand discovery.
In Pepe v Pepe, 258 N.J. Super. 157 (Chan. Div. 1992) held that the confidentiality provision of record keeping under the Domestic Violence act applies to the records kept on file with the Clerk of the Superior Court.
The Family Judge Powers:
At the hearing the judge of the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court may issue an order granting any or all of the following relief:
(1) An order restraining the defendant from subjecting the victim to domestic violence, as defined in this act.
(2) An order granting exclusive possession to the plaintiff of the residence or household regardless of whether the residence or household is jointly or solely owned by the parties or jointly or solely leased by the parties. This order shall not in any manner affect title or interest to any real property held by either party or both jointly. If it is not possible for the victim to remain in the residence, the court may order the defendant to pay the victims rent at a residence other than the one previously shared by the parties if the defendant is found to have a duty to support the victim and the victim requires alternative housing.
(3) An order providing for parenting time…..
(4) An order requiring the defendant to pay to the victim monetary compensation for losses suffered as a direct result of the act of domestic violence. The order may require the defendant to pay the victim directly, to reimburse the Victims of Crime Compensation Board for any and all compensation paid by the Victims of Crime Compensat