TRENTON – Senator Jim Beach today introduced legislation making an act of domestic violence committed in the presence of a child an aggravating factor for the court to consider in determining the appropriate sentence to be imposed for a crime. The existence of aggravating factors can result in a longer sentence for an offender.
“In New Jersey, children are present for nearly 30 percent of domestic violence incidents that are reported to authorities. While these statistics are tragic, we know that many cases of domestic violence go unreported and the actual incidence of children witnessing abuse is greater,” said SenatorBeach (D-Camden). “Children who witness domestic violence can be affected over the long-term by the violence and abuse that has taken place in their presence, resulting in both physical and emotional difficulties beyond childhood. The far-reaching affects on children of witnessing this abuse should be considered by the courts when sentencing offenders. This measure will ensure that happens.”
In New Jersey, a domestic violence incident occurs the equivalent of once every 8 minutes and 6 seconds. There were 65,060 domestic violence offenses reported by New Jersey police in 2012, and children were involved or present for 29 percent of the offenses, according to statistics from the New Jersey State Police Crime Reporting Unit. Children who grow up witnessing domestic violence are among those most seriously affected by this crime. Frequent exposure to violence in the home not only predisposes children to numerous social and physical problems, but also teaches them that violence is a normal way of life—thereby increasing their risk of becoming society’s next generation of victims and abusers, according to information from the Department of Justice.
In determining the appropriate sentence to be imposed on a person who has been convicted of a crime, the court considers the sentencing range for a particular crime, as well as aggravating factors, which make the crime more serious, and mitigating factors, which make it less serious. The bill (S2479) adds an aggravating factor to be considered during the sentencing that the person committed an act of domestic violence in the presence of a child under 16 years old.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.