Domestic Violence Charges and Restraining Orders for Criminal Coercion in New Jersey
“Criminal coercion under N.J.S.A. 2C:13-5 is considered an act of domestic violence, which can lead to criminal charges and a restraining order in New Jersey.”
While you may not believe that mere threats that are not even directed at your wife, husband, ex, partner, family, or other intimate relationship, can land you in jail in the criminal system, and on the receiving end of a restraining order, you are mistaken. Since New Jersey law recognizes criminal coercion among the acts of domestic violence, this means those who commit this crime against an intimate partner or another person that meets the victim criteria, can be criminally prosecuted and civilly restrained. A domestic violence victim may file a civil complaint in the Family Court as well as a criminal complaint in the Criminal Superior Court, serving for both protection of the victim and punishment of the abuser. You may be facing an intricate web of criminal and civil restrictions, incarceration, and fines for threatening someone’s safety to force your intimate partner to stay in the relationship or exert power or control over them. Unfortunately, not all of these allegations are justified or should stand up in court.
If you have been accused of criminal coercion in New Jersey, such as Bergen County, Essex County, Passaic County, Union County, or Middlesex County, contact the skilled domestic violence defense lawyers at The Tormey Law Firm for the help you need now. We defend clients facing these accusations in criminal court and family court across the state of NJ. With extensive knowledge of the necessary elements and defenses available in domestic violence and restraining orders cases, let our team fight for your best interests in one or both of the proceedings you now face. Contact us at (908)-336-5008 or send us a message. A free consultation is at your disposal around the clock.
What is Criminal Coercion in NJ?
According to New Jersey law, section N.J.S.A. 2C:13-5, criminal coercion is making someone do or not do something by force or threat. Those who commit criminal coercion often threaten or blackmail the victim, or someone important to the victim, with physical harm, threats of committing a crime, revealing damaging secrets to others that is calculated to harm the victim’s reputations or credit, testifying in court against the victim or withholding testimony in support of the victim, withholding action in one’s official capacity, conducting a strike or boycott of someone’s business, withholding information, doing any other act that threatens another to their detriment, or damaging the health, safety, personal relationships or career of the victim. The force comes not merely from words as threats but actual force, physical, psychological, or emotional.
For example, an act of criminal coercion in the realm of domestic violence may occur when a spouse threatens their wife or husband that they will hurt the business of the victim’s parents by reporting false bad reviews on social media or business sites. Or perhaps they threaten to take the victim’s children out of state so that the victim never sees the children again. In other situations, criminal coercion occurs after physical abuse, when the actual offender threatens to report the victim to the police for committing the crime of domestic violence. And even though the actions may be directed to third persons close to the victim, it still constitutes an act of criminal coercion. A parent whose child is threatened may experience terror for the child’s safety and may endure unimaginable physical and mental abuse to protect their child. That is tantamount to domestic violence.
Criminal coercion is a fourth degree crime, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000.00 fine, unless the threat is made with criminal intent. Then it may be a third degree crime that carries a 3 to 5 year prison sentence and a $15,000.00 fine. It also leads to a felony conviction on your criminal record.
Criminal Coercion as the Basis of a Restraining Order
In 2015, the New Jersey legislature added criminal coercion to the list of predicate acts of domestic violence in the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act for cases like these. The Act allows those suffering the terror of coercion to themselves or others important to them, to seek a restraining order that keeps the abuser away from the victim and the victim’s loved ones, family members or household members. Essentially, not only the victim of abuse is protected, but the child, parent, or other person the abuser threatens harm to in order to get the victim to do something or not do something, is also protected. Affording protection to a minor in this recent addition to the Act, goes against prior law that disallowed a minor to be the subject of a protective order. So, not merely threatening a minor child but using that threat to the minor child as leverage to get the victim to do or refrain from doing something is the crux of the crime and the basis for an order of protection.
While a final restraining order protects the adult victim, in principle, the minor child may be listed as a protected person under the final restraining order, meaning the abuser may not contact the plaintiff in the domestic violence action and restraining order application, as well as any children or other household members of the named protected person. Not only does that protect parents and their children from harm, but it also may weigh in on custody decisions for divorcing parties involved in domestic violence.
In criminal court, the judge may or may not release an arrested defendant from jail on condition that they stay away from the victim. In civil court, the victim may request a protective order, first temporarily and then finally, from a judge who is convinced that the victim has suffered domestic violence and needs protection. The plaintiff’s challenge is to show the history of domestic violence, which may not be as apparent with coercive threats as with evidence of physical abuse, like bruises or other injuries. If, however, the victim shows the psychological terror caused by the threats to the victim or their loved ones, criminal coercion may form the basis of the protective order. The order will forbid the defendant from contacting the victim at home or work, as well as forbid them from having guns. With children, the order may also include custody and support provisions.
Questions about Criminal Coercion in a Domestic Violence Case? Call Seasoned Lawyers in Essex NJ
As is evident, criminal coercion allegations have the force and effects of any other domestic violence crime. The consequences are long-lasting, expensive, and significant. Make sure you have a confident, knowledgeable, and aggressive attorney who can defend you in both the criminal and civil courts against criminal coercion charges and a restraining order. Our defense lawyers at The Tormey Law Firm have what it takes to challenge criminal coercion and other domestic abuse accusations in Teaneck, Newark, Millburn, Belvidere, Newton, New Brunswick, and New Jersey statewide. Call (908)-336-5008 to discuss your individual situation with a member of our team free of charge.