Even for an experienced New Jersey Divorce and Family Attorney, determining whether an individual’s behavior amounts to harassment under New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act is a challenge. When a couple is experiencing a messy “break up,” my office is frequently asked to investigate such situations. As a New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer for nearly the past 20 years, my legal team and I analyze the specific facts of the situation in order to advise our client’s whether a Temporary Restraining Order is necessary. Simply put, the difference between Harassment under New Jersey’s Criminal Code versus “breaking up bickering” is often a very fine line. The best way to explain the difference is to share some examples but first let’s be clear what harassment is under New Jersey’s Criminal Code.
In New Jersey, if a lawyer handling a domestic violence hearing wishes to present credible evidence to the court to strengthen his or her case, he or she should be given the opportunity to do so. Although the court will not consider each and every piece of evidence a party tries to submit, it will consider certain business records such as bank account statements. What if a party is being wrongly accused of domestic violence and tries to present his or her E-Z Pass records to prove that he or she was in a particular spot at a certain time? Will the court consider the E-Z Pass records over another attorneys’ objection? The case of S.S.S. v. M.A.G. addressed this issue for the first time. Let’s take a closer look.
Yes, “coercion” under the 2015 amendments of New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, and found that the protection of the Act applies to third parties close to the victim. As a restraining order attorney, it is essential to understand all facets of New Jersey’s Prevention ofDomestic Violence Act. Therefore, my associate lawyers and I monitor the New Jersey Legislature as they continue to amend the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act to make it stronger. The 2015 amendments to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act now include threats to someone’s child as a form of domestic violence. In the recent case of J.L. v. A.C., Judge Jones of the Family Part of Ocean County explored the definition of “coercion” under the 2015 amendments of New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, and found that the protection of the Act applies to third parties close to the victim.
Far too often as a New Jersey Divorce Attorney, my cases involve some semblance of NJ domestic violence. When folks finally come to consult with my office regarding such terrible situations, I always ask if they have preserved any “evidence” (I frequently ask the same question in a New Jersey Child Custody case). During a New Jersey Final Restraining Order trial, the old “he said, she said,” scenario almost always raises its ugly head. This is the case in most domestic violence trials. Simply put, it is extremely rare for a witness to be there when domestic violence occurs. A vast majority of New Jersey domestic violence incidents occur inside the home. Therefore, obtaining and safeguarding evidence is crucial. The “he said, she said” dilemma is virtually eliminated in a restraining order trial when this New Jersey Family lawyer has hard evidence to introduce to the Superior Court of New Jersey. Let’s explore further.
In 2009, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that a case is only as strong as its evidence. Therefore without evidence, arguments become opinions, causing cases to be viewed as he-said she-said ones. If you are the victim, it is important that any and all evidence is preserved no matter the situation so that your argument is stronger and can directly prove the truth of the matter asserted. In cases involving domestic violence, it is especially important to preserve evidence if you are the victim because you might be responsible to bear the burden of proving your case.
In a domestic violence case, the following are standard pieces of evidence that I recommend preserving:
- Threatening text messages
- Harassing phone calls
- 911 call recordings
- Witness statements
- Prior restraining orders
- Harassing Facebook posts
- Pictures of bruises or property damage
- Medical records
- Police reports
- Anything in writing from the abuser i.e. a letter
The more evidence you can save, the better chance you have of winning the case. If tried before a jury, whatever evidence is admissible will be presented to the jury to strengthen your case. If the evidence is relevant to the case and doesn’t violate a rule of evidence, it will likely be admitted. For example, if you have been attacked by your spouse and have pictures of the bruises, save them. These pictures will likely be admissible because they are highly relevant to your case. They also will help your attorney prove that you are a victim of domestic violence and therefore should prevail in court.
Preserving evidence is also extremely important because it will help lawyers win more cases on behalf of victims of domestic violence. There are countless instances in which abusers walk free of any charges because there is no concrete evidence to show they have in fact abused their wife or husband. It is a proven fact that when evidence is introduced, it is more likely for a victim to win the case. This is true because evidence is tangible and not coming directly from the mouth of the victim. The victim might be scared to testify, fearing that he or she might be attacked again if the abuser was found innocent. Since the lawyers are the ones introducing the evidence in the first place, it places more emphasis on their role in the case as opposed to putting the victim in the spotlight.
Even if you have once been abused once, it is vital that you save any proof of the incident. Domestic violence is rarely a one time occurrence. It follows a distinct cycle. While your spouse might apologize and promise that he or she will never act up again, it is important to be skeptical of this and not to fall into the domestic violence cyclical trap. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact my office today. Thank you.
Some of the most difficult cases that I face as a Domestic violence lawyer id drawing distinction between harassment and, what my other attorney colleagues and I often call, “divorce-bickering.” While many couples that are breaking up have arguments, harassment describes a pattern of abusive and controlling behavior with the intent to alarm the victim as to their safety and welfare. I have had many judges here in New Jersey tell me that temporary restraining orders harassment cases under New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence act are the toughest to determine as to whether a final restraining order should be issued. The premier harassment case under New Jersey domestic violence law is the Corrente case. [Read more…] about When Is Harassment Considered Domestic Violence In New Jersey?
As a restraining order trial attorney, knowing the facts of my case is essential. Moreover, another reason that you should have a savvy lawyer who only handles New Jersey family law and domestic violence related cases is the special civil procedure involved in a this type of trial. Specifically, I am aware that the alleged victim, when obtaining the temporary restraining order, has an opportunity to list any history of domestic violence between the parties. Therefore, if an alleged “victim” is testifying as to a “history of domestic violence,” that is not listed on the temporary restraining order, it is my job as a trial lawyer, on cross-examination, to ask, “why didn’t you list these alleged events when you completed the temporary retaining order form?” More times than not, I am able to successfully attack the credibility of this witness. The following case illustrates why a true victim of domestic violence in New Jersey should be very specific, even if there were not witnesses whatsoever. [Read more…] about When Obtaining A Temporary Restraining Order, Be Sure To List Any History Of Domestic Violence