The Law: The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act
Does this law apply to me and my situation?
This law applies to you if you are a person 18 years of age or older, or an emancipated minor subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, or former spouse, or a present or former household member, or someone with whom you have a child in common. This law also applies to you if you are subjected to domestic violence within a dating relationship, regardless of your age (under or over 18). You do not have to be married or living with the abuser in order to be protected.
How do I know if I am a victim of domestic violence under this law?
- You are a victim of domestic violence if you have experienced:
- Beatings or physical attacks such as kicking, slapping, punching, or hair pulling
- Threats that make you fear serious injury to yourself or your children
- Threats that make you fear for your life
- Imprisonment within your own home or at another location
- Forced sexual contact or rape under threats of harm to yourself or someone you care about
- Embarrassment or alarm because of lewd or shocking behavior
- Damage to your personal property
- Forced entry into your home, with or without a weapon
- Threats with a weapon such as a gun or knife and
- Repeated verbal humiliation and attacks
Should I call the police?
YES! Domestic violence is a serious crime and the police must respond to your calls – no matter how many times you call them. Under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, it is the primary duty of the police officer who responds to a domestic violence call to enforce the law and to protect the victim. The law requires that all law enforcement officers and judicial personnel receive training in domestic violence.
The police are required by law to help you and to give you information about your rights. Among other things, the police must write a report. Be sure to tell the officer all the details. Read the report carefully and correct any mistakes. BE SURE TO GET THE OFFICER’S NAME AND BADGE NUMBER
Will anyone be arrested?
A police officer MUST ARREST a domestic violence suspect and MUST SIGN A CRIMINAL COMPLAINT against this person if you, the victim, show signs of injury caused by an act of domestic violence, even if you, as the injured party, do not wish to file a complaint.
If you show no indication of having suffered bodily injury, but tell the officer that an injury has occurred, the officer at the scene should consider other factors to determine if there is reason to make an arrest. The following are other factors that the police officer should consider:
- The injury could be internal and painful or
- It could be on an area of your body that you do not feel comfortable in exposing.
If you act with reasonable force in self defense against an attacker, and both you and your attacker show signs of injury, you should not be arrested or charged with a domestic violence offense. The officer at the scene should consider the nature and extent of the injuries, along with any previous history of reported domestic violence incidents.
What if a weapon was used during an act of domestic violence?
If a police officer at the scene has reason to believe a weapon was used during an act of domestic violence, the officer must arrest the suspect and seize any weapons on the premises that could expose you to further harm. The officer must also sign a criminal complaint in this instance.
Seized weapons are turned over to the county prosecutor’s office. If the prosecutor does not institute a legal action within 45 days to retain the weapon(s) seized, they may be returned to the owner.
The police must arrest your abuser and sign a complaint in the following situations
- When you have signs of injury
- When there is reason to believe a weapon was involved
- When your abuser has violated an existing restraining order, even though there is no violence at the time of the violation
- When there is a warrant for the abuser’s arrest for any other charge
Information from Domestic Violence: The Law and You provided by NJ Department of Community Affairs.
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