A recently introduced bill in the NJ Assembly (NJ Assembly Bill #2743-2012-2013 Regular Session) would drastically expand the pool of people who could file for a domestic violence restraining order.
Currently the domestic violence statute allows a victim to file for a domestic violence restraining order, and defines a "victim" (of an aggressor) as a "spouse, former spouse, household member or former household member who is at least 18 years of age"; those who "have a child or will be having a child together" with the aggressor; or, those "in a dating relationship." Once the criteria is met defining a person as a victim, then the Court has to determine if an offense, such as assault, criminal restraint, harassment, stalking, has occurred to place the victim in fear for his/her safety, warranting a need for the restraining order.
The recently introduced bill would allow someone to file for a domestic violence restraining order even if they did not fit into the definition of "victim" as set forth above, as long as the underlying offense (i.e. harassment) have been found to have occurred.
This would vastly increase the pool of cases that Superior Court judges have to hear and may have serious consequences for a greater percentage of the population. Is it fair to now, as some say, water down the ability for a domestic violence victim to go to court and have to wait to have their case heard because there are now cases before the Court where the parties did not have the requisite "family" or "family-type" relationship?
If this bill is passed and becomes law, will they be lumped into the same trial calendar as those who do not have this type of relationship? Will it cause judges to become desensitized to the plight of true domestic violence victims because they will become overburdened with restraining order applications? Will we now have a vastly increased the pool of the population who have a restraining order entered against them and now will not be able to become employed due to the existence of the restraining order?