By SHERRI RUGGIERI
New Jersey’s domestic violence law has been transformed into a sword for vengeance rather than a shield for victims of violence. An allegation of domestic abuse can lead to a Temporary (TRO) and then a Final Restraining Order (FRO). Since the restraining order is a civil matter, the accuser/victim has a lower standard of proof. Many times, the accuser is using the legal system for leverage in a divorce for money, property, marital residence, child custody, alimony, and child support.
The motive of revenge should be considered by a judge hearing a “he said” and “she said” case for a FRO. When there is a question of credibility, the scales of justice are no longer balanced, but tipped in favor of victims at the expense of defendants’ rights. The interplay of the civil case for the restraining order and the criminal statutes creates the imbalance. It should be noted that domestic violence law has incorporated the following criminal statutes:
(1) Homicide N.J.S. 2C:11″1 et seq.
(2) Assault N.J.S. 2C:12″1
(3) Terroristic threats N.J.S. 2C:12″3
(4) Kidnapping N.J.S. 2C:13″1
(5) Criminal restraint N.J.S. 2C:13″2
(6) False imprisonment N.J.S. 2C:13″3
(7) Sexual assault N.J.S. 2C:14″2
(8) Criminal sexual conduct N.J.S. 2C:14″3
(9) Lewdness N.J.S. 2C:14″4
(10) Criminal mischief N.J.S. 2C:17″3
(11) Burglary N.J.S. 2C:18″2
(12) Criminal trespass N.J.S. 2C:18″3
(13) Harassment N.J.S. 2C:33″4
A plea agreement to the criminal charges can destroy future career opportunities for the accused. This person now will have a criminal record and his/her name, fingerprints, and photograph will be made a part of the domestic violence central registry (2C:25-34). An unjust result is then perpetrated by the procedure and substantiated by the law. Persons accused of domestic violence cannot afford to enter the legal arena without a shield and sword of their own.
Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.
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