NJ Governor Chris Christie recently signed legislation to permit victims and witnesses of alleged domestic violence or sexual assault to testify against defendants using closed-circuit television. Previously, the court system utilized closed-circuit testimony for witnesses 16 years old or younger in prosecutions for aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact, human trafficking involving sexual activity, child abuse, or neglect or abuse of a child. Under the new law, victims of alleged domestic violence, regardless of their age, may be permitted to provide closed-circuit testimony. This new law echoes the overwhelming public sentiment that domestic violence is a serious issue in the United States. For instance, in New Jersey alone there were 61,659 reported domestic violence offenses in 2015. Of those cases, about 80 percent were dismissed. Now that victims can testify via closed-circuit television, that statistic may change for the better.
Under the new legislation, closed-circuit testimony can only be used if the court finds a substantial likelihood that the witness would suffer severe emotional or mental distress if required to testify in open court. Additional procedural safeguards also require that the victim or witness testify under oath and be subject to cross-examination by the defendant’s attorney. In fact, the defendant’s attorney must be present in the same room as the victim or witness during the testimony and the defendant and the defendant’s attorney may confer privately with each other during the testimony through a separate audio system. Lastly, if the victim or witness is under the age of 18 at the time of court proceedings, any recording of audio will not constitute part of the record on appeal and shall be deemed confidential unless the court orders otherwise for good cause shown upon the motion of the parties. (However, if the victim or witness is 18 years or older at the time of the proceedings, any recording of the audio portion of the testimony shall constitute part of the record on appeal.)
Does the Victim have to be in same courtroom as Defendant? NJ Domestic Violence Law
The bottom line is that the new law does not change the fact that all defendants are entitled to their day in court. Moreover, when it comes to criminal domestic violence charges, the prosecution must the charges against the defendant prove beyond a reasonable doubt. This new piece of legislation only changes the methods by which the prosecution can present its case in court.
If you have been accused of a domestic violence offense in NJ, you probably have many questions about the charges and how you can defend yourself. That’s where the Tormey Law Firm comes in. Our team of domestic violence defense attorneys not only boasts decades of experience, we have also successfully defended clients accused of domestic violence crimes in courts across New Jersey. If you’re facing domestic violence accusations in Essex County, Bergen County, or anywhere else in NJ, call the Tormey Law Firm today.