The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General recently promulgated a memorandum to law enforcement agencies recommending use of the Ontario Domestic Violence Risk Assessment Tool when handling domestic violence cases.
The risk assessment tool focuses on 13 items intended to measure the risk of potential domestic violence assaults in the future. According to Dr. Zoe Hilton, a researcher at the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health, the tool “was designed to be scored by police, so there’s nothing about a mental health history or anything that would be difficult for an officer to evaluate.” Hilton adds: “Essentially, after talking to the victim involved in a domestic dispute, a police officer scores each item on the list as a zero or a one. A total score of a six or seven indicates that the perpetrator is at high risk of committing future domestic violence; however, each jurisdiction decides what score to use as the threshold for labeling someone as ‘high risk.’”
The 13 factors utilized in the risk assessment tool are: 1) prior domestic assault in police or criminal records; 2) prior non-domestic assault in police or criminal records; 3) prior custodial sentence for a term of 30 days or more; 4) failure on prior conditional release; 5) threat to harm or kill anyone during assault; 6) confinement of victim during assault; 7) victim fears (is concerned about) future assault; 8) more than one child altogether (abuser, victim, or both); 9) victim has a biological child from a previous partner; 10) prior violence against non-domestic victim; 11) more than one indicator of substance abuse problem; 12) assault on the victim when she was pregnant; and 13) victim faces at least one obstacle to getting help (e.g., lives in a remote location or does not have a phone).
In addition to using the risk assessment tools, law enforcement officers who respond to a call regarding an allegation of domestic violence typically also provide information about the local domestic violence response team. Moreover, police officers are able to provide information about how to obtain a temporary restraining order (TRO) pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. Generally, a victim of domestic violence in New Jersey can obtain the protections of a restraining order by going to the Family Division of the Superior Court in the county where they reside or where the domestic violence occurred, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., or by going to the local police department on nights, weekends, or holidays.
Domestic Violence Risk Assessment Tool in New Jersey Criminal Cases
If you or a loved one is suffering in a domestic violence relationship and has been the victim of domestic abuse, contact the New Jersey restraining order attorneys at the Tormey Law Firm. We have handled countless domestic violence cases. We are available 24/7 to help you through this difficult time and get you the protections provided by New Jersey’s tough domestic violence laws.