Written by attorney Alissa D Hascup

NJ's Prevention of Domestic Violence Act

“The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991" (

Domestic violence is taken extremely serious in the State of New Jersey. Often times, involvement in a domestic violence related incident has a host of collateral effects. Most obviously, the consequences of being convicted of a crime of domestic violence can be dire. Additionally, the entry of a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO") or Final Restraining Order (“FRO") can have lasting effects.

In 1991, the New Jersey Legislature found and declared that:

  • Domestic violence is a serious crime against society;
  • There are thousands of persons in this State who are regularly beaten, tortured and in some cases even killed by their spouses or cohabitants;
  • A significant number of women who are assaulted are pregnant;
  • Victims of domestic violence come from all social and economic backgrounds and ethnic groups;
  • There is a positive correlation between spousal abuse and child abuse; and
  • Children, even when they are not themselves physically assaulted, suffer deep and lasting emotional effects from exposure to domestic violence.

See N.J.S.A. 2C:25-18

In enacting the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991" it was the Legislature’s intent to assure the victims of domestic violence the maximum protection from abuse the law can provide.

When an alleged act of domestic violence occurs, the victim has the opportunity to file a criminal complaint (if appropriate), a civil complaint/TRO (if appropriate), both, or neither. The complaint(s) can be signed where the alleged act of domestic violence occurred, where the defendant resides, where the victim resides, or where the victim is sheltered or temporarily staying. The filing of a criminal complaint does not preclude the victim from filing a domestic violence complaint and seeking a TRO. A person may also file criminal charges without seeking a TRO.

For domestic violence to be found, the defendant and victim must have a relationship, as defined under the statute. Specifically, a “victim of domestic violence" means any person who is 18 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 or former household member. (This means, for example, that a roommate relationship qualifies.) The definition 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. It further includes any person who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship.

The criminal offenses in New Jersey that can constitute domestic violence are as follows:

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

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

  3. Terroristic Threats ( N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3

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

  5. Criminal Restraint ( N.J.S.A. 2C:13-2

  6. False Imprisonment ( N.J.S.A. 2C:13-3

  7. Sexual Assault ( N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2

  8. Criminal Sexual Contact ( N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3

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

  10. Criminal Mischief ( N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3

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

  12. Criminal Trespass ( N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3

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

  14. Stalking ( N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10

Note that the crimes on the list range from Homicide, a crime of the first degree, which can be punishable in some instances by a term of life imprisonment without eligibility for parole, to Harassment, which can range from a crime of the fourth degree (punishable by up to 18 months New Jersey State Prison) to a petty disorderly persons offense (punishable by up to 30 days in the county jail).

Note also that a conviction for a crime of domestic violence requires the payment of additional fines.

Collateral Consequences of a Finding of Domestic Violence:

Even if there is a only a finding of domestic violence for purposes of the entry of a Final Restraining Order (“FRO"), there can still be serious consequences.

For instance, following a hearing and finding of domestic violence, the court may issue an Order granting any or all of the following relief:

  • Weapons. The entry of an TRO/FRO can prohibit a defendant from purchasing, owning, possessing or controlling a firearm and from receiving or retaining a firearms purchaser identification card or permit to purchase a handgun for the entire period the TRO/FRO is in effect.
  • Further Acts of Violence.
  • Exclusive Possession of Residence.
  • Parenting Time and Risk Assessments.
  • Monetary Compensation (including support).
  • Professional Domestic Violence Counseling.
  • Location Restraints.
  • Communication Restraints.
  • Other Support and Personal Property.
  • Temporary Custody.
  • Any other appropriate relief, including allowing the Court to monitor that relief.

See N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29b

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