In a letter to the Chairmen of both the Senate and Assembly Judiciary Committees, Senator Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf, and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove have formally requested committee consideration of their legislation that would require the court to consider the results of a domestic violence assessment before dissolving a final restraining order when the defendant has two or more restraining orders against him.
The 9th District Delegation’s legislation, S-185/A-648, would establish a “domestic violence assessment” as an assessment performed by a psychiatrist, licensed psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, or licensed professional counselor with the goal of determining the likelihood that the offender will commit future acts of violence, abuse, or other unacceptable behavior that could pose a threat to the victim, the victim’s family, the victim’s property, or other person identified as being at risk. The defendant would be responsible for the cost of the assessment, which would be considered confidential.
“This legislation was developed to prevent restraining orders from being dissolved by the courts when the defendant may still pose a danger to the victim who has sought protection under the law for their own safety or that of a loved one,” said Senator Connors. “To more effectively protect victims of domestic violence, the legislation would codify factors currently considered by the court in determining whether a defendant, who has applied to dissolve a final order, has established requisite good cause. These factors include, but are not limited to, whether the victim voluntarily consents to dissolve the final order or if the victim fears the defendant. Other key factors that would be considered include the number of times the defendant has been convicted of contempt for violating the final order and whether the defendant has been involved in other violent acts with other persons.”
“Statistics clearly show that domestic violence is still pervasive in our society, despite the considerable efforts of law enforcement and social programs staffed by dedicated personnel,” said Assemblyman Rumpf. “According to the annual report on domestic violence in New Jersey, there were 70,311 domestic violence offenses reported by the police in 2011. While this represented a five percent decrease from the previous year, murders increased by five percent to 40 in 2011 as compared to 38 in 2010. Equally alarming, children were involved or present during 31 percent of all domestic violence offenses occurring in 2011. When considering the number of domestic violence incidents reported each year, while at the same time bearing in mind those incidents which go unreported, the benefits are obvious for requiring defendants to undergo a domestic violence assessment.”
Assemblywoman Gove remarked, “Our justice system would be able to more effectively protect victims of domestic violence if the courts were provided with the findings from a domestic violence assessment of a defendant who has had two or more restraining orders filed against him. For instance, the assessment could determine if a pattern of abusive and dangerous behavior has been established. If so, the court would be in a more informed position to determine if a victim would be placed at greater risk should the restraining order they filed against the defendant be lifted.”
An overview of domestic violence services in the state can be found on the official website of New Jersey State Department of Children and Families at the following link: http://www.state.nj.us/dcf/women/domestic/. Included on the Department’s website is the Community Program Directory, which is provides a listing of services by county.