Typically, a person charged with domestic violence is arrested when police show up during or immediately after a dispute. In other cases, an alleged victim swears out a complaint soon after an alleged assault of some kind and the police are dispatched to make an arrest.
But there is a limit to how long a person can wait to file a domestic violence complaint. Under NJ Rev Stat § 2C:1-6 (2014), the statute of limitations for prosecuting most crimes in New Jersey is 5 years.
There is an exception in the NJ statute of limitations for people who were not yet 18 years old when certain violent offenses occurred. The law allows an alleged victim five years to take action after he or she turns 18 or 2 years after “discovery of the offense.”
New Jersey’s five-year statute of limitations could become relevant years after the fact, in cases of individuals in therapy or other forms of recovery who decide they were criminally victimized years earlier.
If you believe that the statute of limitations should protect you from a pending criminal complaint or indictment filed against you, a criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can explore this issue on your behalf. We may be able to have the charges dropped and can vigorously represent you. Please do not hesitate to contact us online or at (877) 450-8301 for help protecting your rights.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline for prosecution of a legal offense to be begun. The prosecution of a crime is commenced when an indictment is sought. For a non-indictable offense, such as a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey, the prosecution begins upon issuance of a warrant or other process.
Statutes of limitations vary from state to state, and there are also statutes of limitations in civil law to prohibit lawsuits after prescribed periods of time. These limits on when prosecution can take place are meant to ensure that individuals are not convicted of crimes based on outdated evidence (physical or from witnesses) that has deteriorated with time.
As stated above, prosecution of most domestic violence criminal offenses in New Jersey must commence within 5 years of the alleged crime. A prosecution for a disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense (minor crimes) must be commenced within one year after it is committed. These time periods do not apply if a suspect is fleeing justice or prosecution is pending.
There is no statute of limitations in New Jersey on prosecution for murder, manslaughter, sexual assault or terrorism.
But in alleged cases of criminal sexual contact with a child or child endangerment, the statute of limitations does not apply until the alleged victim turns 18 years old. Then, the 5-year period may apply or, if at any time later they initially “discover” the offense, they have 2 years to initiate prosecution.
What Should I Do If I am Charged with Domestic Violence in New Jersey?
A domestic violence charge in New Jersey usually results in the court issuing a restraining order, which puts a variety of restrictions on your freedom along with ordering you to stay away from the alleged victim. Police may charge you with an additional crime of violence, such as harassment, stalking, assault, criminal restraint, or one of the aforementioned crimes against children.
If there is already an outstanding restraining order against you and you are accused of domestic violence, you will automatically be jailed for violation of a restraining order. A formal restraining order stays in effect for a year and may be extended. The event that led to a restraining order could be years old.
You need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after being charged with domestic violence in New Jersey. A domestic violence defense attorney at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can keep a domestic dispute from escalating into a criminal case that lands you in prison.
The older a crime is, the less reliable the case against you is. Particularly when it comes to an alleged victim’s or witness’s testimony, numerous studies have identified the fallibility of memory over time. As the authors of one academic study of “false memory” write:
This fallibility of memory includes not only the omission of details from the original experience but extends to errors of commission including the creation of memory illusions. … Such illusions can emerge spontaneously in an individual, being created endogenously, or can arise due to the suggestion of another person, being created exogenously.
Domestic violence cases are primarily based on testimony of the victim and, in some cases, additional witnesses. As your attorneys, we would scrutinize the evidence against you during the pre-trial exchange of evidence between the prosecution and defense. We will seek ways to discredit the case against you.
Factors that we may raise through testimony, cross-examination of testimony or other evidence to establish that witness testimony is faulty may include:
- Memory decay
- Witness characteristics
- Alleged perpetrator characteristics
- Accuracy of or discrepancies from any prior description of the alleged crime
- Lack of certainty demonstrated at the time of the alleged crime
- Time between the alleged crime and the current confrontation.
Our defense attorneys would advise prosecutors of the holes we see in their case as part of the negotiation for charges to be dropped or reduced. In appropriate circumstances, we might reach out to the alleged victim. Our attorneys are skilled negotiators, and it is not unusual for domestic violence charges in cases we handle to be withdrawn or reduced.
Contact Our New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyers Today
The attorneys of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have a thorough understanding of what New Jersey law allows in the defense of domestic violence charges. We have the established professional relationships necessary to allow our proposals on your behalf to receive fair consideration by prosecutors. To be sure that every potential path toward a dismissal or a lighter charge or sentence is explored, you’ll want to have our seasoned N.J. domestic violence defense attorneys on your side.
Contact the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall online or at (877) 450-8301 for a free initial legal consultation and strong, dedicated legal representation.