Domestic abuse is a serious crime in New Jersey. Even a first offense can bring jail time and substantial fines. The punishments for domestic violence crimes may soon get worse, though, if a new bill is passed into law.
The bill, which was recently introduced by Assemblywoman Celeste Riley, seeks to increase the penalties for committed in the presence of a child under age 16, even if the child is not the target of the abuse and does not incur any actual physical harm. In support of her bill, Riley told NJ 101.5 that it “recognizes that in a household inflicted by domestic violence, children who witness the abuse are victims as well.”
The bill would make engaging in domestic violence in the presence of a child a crime in and of itself. As such, a person could be convicted of that offense even if he or she was not actually convicted of the underlying domestic abuse charge.
Essentially, a conviction would bump the accused person’s conviction one notch up the ladder. So, a disorderly persons offense would become a fourth degree crime, a fourth degree crime would become a third degree crime, and so forth. The maximum punishments would be as follows:
- Fourth degree crimes: 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine
- Third degree crimes: three to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine
- Second degree crimes: five to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine
- First degree crimes: 10 to 20 years in prison and a $200,000 fine
The bill is currently moving through the legislative system, but it is still unclear when or if it will get a hearing.
Source: NJ 101.5, “Domestic Violence in Front of Children Could Become a Crime in New Jersey,” Kelly Waldron, Sept. 2, 2012.
To learn more about this issue, please visit our domestic violence page.