08222017Headline:

When a person claims to be a victim of domestic violence, and the responding law

The Legislature enacted the PDVA to protect certain vulnerable persons from domestic violence, stating:

The Legislature finds and declares 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; that a significant number of women who are assaulted are pregnant; that victims of domestic violence come from all social and economic backgrounds and ethnic groups; that there is a positive correlation between spousal abuse and child abuse; and that children, even when they are not themselves physically assaulted, suffer deep and lasting emotional effects from exposure to domestic violence. It is therefore, the intent of the Legislature to assure the victims of domestic violence the maximum protection from abuse the law can provide.

[N.J.S.A. 2C:25-18.]

See also Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 400 (1998) (“The Act and its legislative history confirm that New Jersey has a strong policy against domestic violence.”).

The PDVA extends protection to “any person who is 18 years of age 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.” N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19. “Because the [PDVA] is remedial in nature, it is to be liberally construed to achieve its salutary purposes.” Cesare, supra, 154 N.J. at 400.

As the Supreme Court noted in Wildoner v. Borough of Ramsey, 162 N.J. 375, 388 (2000), in enacting the PDVA, the “Legislature particularly sought to cure the reluctance on the part of police to arrest alleged perpetrators of domestic violence that had contributed to the underenforcement of the domestic violence laws.” The Legislature clearly noted its intent “to stress that the primary duty of a law enforcement officer when responding to a domestic violence call is to enforce the laws allegedly violated and to protect the victim.” N.J.S.A. 2C:25-18.

“When a person claims to be a victim of domestic violence,” and the responding law enforcement officer “finds probable cause to believe that domestic violence has occurred,” the officer is required to arrest the alleged perpetrator and sign a criminal complaint if the victim “exhibits signs of injury caused by an act of domestic violence[.]” N.J.S.A. 2C:25-21(a). The Legislature elaborated:

“the word ‘exhibits’ is to be liberally construed to mean any indication that a victim has suffered bodily injury, which shall include physical pain or any impairment of physical condition. Where the victim exhibits no visible sign of injury, but states that an injury has occurred, the officer should consider other relevant factors in determining whether there is probable cause to make an arrest.”

[N.J.S.A. 2C:25-21(c)(1).]

As noted by the Court in Wildoner, supra, 162 N.J. at 388, the PDVA “also broadened the discretion of a police officer to arrest an alleged perpetrator . . . provided that the officer had probable cause to believe the incident occurred[,]” citing N.J.S.A. 2C:25-21(b), which states:

A law enforcement officer may arrest a person; or may sign a criminal complaint against that person, or may do both, where there is probable cause to believe that an act of domestic violence has been committed, but where none of the conditions in subsection a. of this section applies.

[N.J.S.A. 2C:25-21(b).]

Moreover, to ensure protection for law enforcement officers, the Legislature enacted N.J.S.A. 2C:25-22, which provides:

A law enforcement officer or a member of a domestic crisis team or any person who, in good faith, reports a possible incident of domestic violence to the police shall not be held liable in any civil action brought by any party for an arrest based on probable cause, enforcement in good faith of a court order, or any other act or omission in good faith under this act.

NOTE from Paul G. Kostro, Esq.: If you are interested in Mediation; or have issues relating to Divorce, Domestic Violence, Child Support or Other Legal Matters, please call me to schedule an appointment — I can be reached by telephone at (908)486-2200; or by Email. [HOME]

NOTE: This Blog/Blawg, NJ Family Issues, is managed by Paul G. Kostro, Esq., an attorney/lawyer/mediator in Linden, Union County, New Jersey.

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