SENATE, No. 558

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

214th LEGISLATURE

 

PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2010 SESSION

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  SANDRA B. CUNNINGHAM

District 31 (Hudson)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Requires prosecution of domestic violence-related cases in Superior Court; removes jurisdiction from municipal court.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel

  


An Act concerning domestic violence and amending N.J.S.2B:12-17 and P.L.1991, c.261.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    N.J.S.2B:12-17 is amended to read as follows:

     2B:12-17.  Jurisdiction of specified offenses.  A municipal court has jurisdiction over the following cases within the territorial jurisdiction of the court:

     a.     Violations of county or municipal ordinances;

     b.    Violations of the motor vehicle and traffic laws;

     c.     Disorderly persons offenses, petty disorderly persons offenses and other non-indictable offenses except for offenses arising out of violations of the "Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of  1991," P.L.1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-17 et seq.) and where exclusive jurisdiction is given to the Superior Court;

     d.    Violations of the fish and game laws;

     e.     Proceedings to collect a penalty where jurisdiction is granted by statute;

     f.     Violations of laws regulating boating; and

     g.     Any other proceedings where jurisdiction is granted by statute.

(cf: P.L.1996, c.95, s.12)

 

     2.    Section 12 of P.L.1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-28) is amended to read as follows:

     12.  a.  (1)  A victim may file a complaint alleging the commission of an act of domestic violence with the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court in conformity with the Rules of Court. The court shall not dismiss any complaint or delay disposition of a case because the victim has left the residence to avoid further incidents of domestic violence.  Filing a complaint pursuant to this section shall not prevent the filing of a criminal complaint for the same act.  Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, the Superior Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction over any civil or criminal complaint filed pursuant to P.L.1991, c.261.

     (2)  On weekends, holidays and other times when the court is closed, a victim may file a complaint before a judge of the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court or a municipal court judge who shall be assigned to accept complaints and issue emergency, ex parte relief in the form of temporary restraining orders pursuant to this act.


     (3)  A plaintiff may apply for relief under this section in a court having jurisdiction over the place where the alleged act of domestic violence occurred, where the defendant resides, or where the plaintiff resides or is sheltered, and the court shall follow the same procedures applicable to other emergency applications. Criminal complaints filed pursuant to this act shall be investigated and prosecuted in the jurisdiction where the offense is alleged to have occurred.  Contempt complaints filed pursuant to N.J.S.2C:29-9 shall be prosecuted in the county where the contempt is alleged to have been committed and a copy of the contempt complaint shall be forwarded to the court that issued the order alleged to have been violated.

     b.  The court shall waive any requirement that the petitioner's place of residence appear on the complaint.

     c.  The clerk of the court, or other person designated by the court, shall assist the parties in completing any forms necessary for the filing of a summons, complaint, answer or other pleading.

     d.  Summons and complaint forms shall be readily available at the clerk's office, at the municipal courts and at municipal and State police stations.

     e.  As soon as the domestic violence complaint is filed, both the victim and the abuser shall be advised of any programs or services available for advice and counseling.

     f.  A plaintiff may seek emergency, ex parte relief in the nature of a temporary restraining order.  A municipal court judge or a judge of the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court may enter an ex parte order when necessary to protect the life, health or well-being of a victim on whose behalf the relief is sought.

     g.  If it appears that the plaintiff is in danger of domestic violence, the judge shall, upon consideration of the plaintiff's domestic violence complaint, order emergency ex parte relief, in the nature of a temporary restraining order.  A decision shall be made by the judge regarding the emergency relief forthwith.

     h.  A judge may issue a temporary restraining order upon sworn testimony or complaint of an applicant who is not physically present, pursuant to court rules, or by a person who represents a person who is physically or mentally incapable of filing personally. A temporary restraining order may be issued if the judge is satisfied that exigent circumstances exist sufficient to excuse the failure of the applicant to appear personally and that sufficient grounds for granting the application have been shown.

     i.  An order for emergency, ex parte relief shall be granted upon good cause shown and shall remain in effect until a judge of the Family Part issues a further order.  Any temporary order hereunder is immediately appealable for a plenary hearing de novo not on the record before any judge of the Family Part of the county in which the plaintiff resides or is sheltered if that judge issued the temporary order or has access to the reasons for the issuance of the temporary order and sets forth in the record the reasons for the modification or dissolution.  The denial of a temporary restraining order by a municipal court judge and subsequent administrative dismissal of the complaint shall not bar the victim from refiling a complaint in the Family Part based on the same incident and receiving an emergency, ex parte hearing de novo not on the record before a Family Part judge, and every denial of relief by a municipal court judge shall so state.

     j.  Emergency relief may include forbidding the defendant from returning to the scene of the domestic violence, forbidding the defendant from possessing any firearm or other weapon enumerated in subsection r. of N.J.S.2C:39-1, ordering the search for and seizure of any such weapon at any location where the judge has reasonable cause to believe the weapon is located and the seizure of any firearms purchaser identification card or permit to purchase a handgun issued to the defendant and any other appropriate relief. The judge shall state with specificity the reasons for and scope of the search and seizure authorized by the order. The provisions of this subsection prohibiting a defendant from possessing a firearm or other weapon shall not apply to any law enforcement officer while actually on duty, or to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States or member of the National Guard while actually on duty or traveling to or from an authorized place of duty.

     k.  The judge may permit the defendant to return to the scene of the domestic violence to pick up personal belongings and effects but shall, in the order granting relief, restrict the time and duration of such permission and provide for police supervision of such visit.

     l.  An order granting emergency relief, together with the complaint or complaints, shall immediately be forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agency for service on the defendant, and to the police of the municipality in which the plaintiff resides or is sheltered, and shall immediately be served upon the defendant by the police, except that an order issued during regular court hours may be forwarded to the sheriff for immediate service upon the defendant in accordance with the Rules of Court.  If personal service cannot be effected upon the defendant, the court may order other appropriate substituted service.  At no time shall the plaintiff be asked or required to serve any order on the defendant.

     m.  (Deleted by amendment, P.L.1994, c.94.)

     n.  Notice of temporary restraining orders issued pursuant to this section shall be sent by the clerk of the court or other person designated by the court to the appropriate chiefs of police, members of the State Police and any other appropriate law enforcement agency or court.

     o.  (Deleted by amendment, P.L.1994, c.94.)

     p.  Any temporary or permanent restraining order issued pursuant to this act shall be in effect throughout the State, and shall be enforced by all law enforcement officers.

     q.  Prior to the issuance of any temporary or permanent restraining order issued pursuant to this section, the court shall order that a search be made of the domestic violence central registry with regard to the defendant's record.

(cf: P.L.2003, c.277, s.5)

 

     3.    This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill would provide that all matters arising out of domestic violence cases, both criminal and civil, shall be heard exclusively in the Superior Court.  In 1998, the Assembly Task Force on Domestic Violence noted that many part-time municipal prosecutors and judges lacked adequate time and adequate resources to properly handle criminal cases involving domestic violence complaints. Consequently, the Task Force recommended that all prosecutions of Criminal Code domestic violence cases be removed from municipal court and placed with the Superior Court.  This bill would embody that recommendation, providing that all criminal matters arising out of domestic violence cases be heard in the Superior Court.

     The bill would not change the current provisions allowing municipal courts to accept initial domestic violence complaints and to issue emergency restraining orders.