Implications of State v. Hemenway on the Interpretation of Probable Cause in Relation to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act N.J.S.A 2C:25-17 in New Jersey
Recently, there was an important case reversed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey related to the scope of how Search & Seizure is applied when enforcing the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act N.J.S.A 2C:25-17. The outcome of State v. Hemenway will greatly impact how courts within the State of New Jersey will analyze the extent to which the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act N.J.S.A 2C:25-17 can be applied without infringing on Search & Seizure rights, which are strictly protected within the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
A Brief Overview of the Facts in State v. Hemenway
The plaintiff had filed a severe domestic violence complaint where Hemenway allegedly entered into the window of her home and committed several violent acts along with threats related to killing the plaintiff and her family. The threats that were made mentioned weapons that Hemenway had in his apartment and cars, which made the Family Court judge permit a temporary restraining order (TRO) to be issued along with a Search & Seizure of Hemenway’s apartment and cars to recover the weapons following the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act N.J.S.A 2C:25-17. However, while the Search & Seizure occurred in Hemenway’s apartment and cars, drugs were uncovered, which Hemenway was arrested and prosecuted for drug offenses. Hemenway moved to suppress evidence related to the drug offenses found in his home and cars; however, both the Trial Court and Appellate Division denied Hemenway’s request.
Important Issues Discussed in the Case
The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 enables a judge to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) to protect a victim of domestic violence and to enter an order authorizing the police to search for and seize from the defendant’s home, or any other place, weapons that may pose a threat to the victim. One of the more confusing factors about the application of the Domestic Violence Act is that there has to be probable cause to make a Search & Seizure of a defendant’s home constitutional.
According to the court’s analysis with the facts in State v. Hemenway, it was determined that the temporary restraining order (TRO) that had been previously issued did not satisfy the element of probable cause required under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution to allow a Search & Seizure to take place in a defendant’s home. The Court further held that enforcing the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 cannot be directly squared with the protections for unjustified Search & Seizures without the requisite probable cause as is required in State and Federal Constitutions. For this reason, the Court held that protecting domestic violence victims must be accomplished while abiding by well-established constitutional norms including Search & Seizures. Before a Court may issue a warrant to search for weapons under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17, a court must determine that there is (1) probable cause to believe that an act of domestic violence has been committed by the defendant; (2) probable cause to believe that a search for and seizure of weapons is “necessary to protect the life, health or well-being of a victim on whose behalf the relief is sought,” and (3) probable cause to believe that the weapons are located in the place to be searched.
What Should I Do if a Restraining Order has been filed against me?
If you have recently been charged with offenses related to a Search & Seizure permitted by the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 that was improperly applied by a court within New Jersey, it is wise to speak with an attorney, experienced in this types of matters, to have a second look at the particulars of your case to see if you have the potential for a successful appeal.
Focus on Criminal Defense and Domestic Violence
At the Bianchi Law Group, our firm primarily focuses on cases related to Criminal Defense and Domestic Violence. Both partners Robert Bianchi and David Bruno are former prosecutors who handled a wide range of cases including homicide, assault, sexual assault, robbery, fraud, domestic violence, along with municipal matters such as DUI. The Bianchi Law Group is equipped with experienced Criminal Defense attorneys in New Jersey to help individuals looking for a New Jersey lawyer to help navigate the criminal justice system while providing the best possible representation and legal outcome for our clients.
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The Bianchi Law Group partners Robert Bianchi and David Bruno are former prosecutors who have handled the investigations and prosecutions of crimes in New Jersey and are certified along with only 250 other attorneys as certified criminal trial attorneys by the New Jersey Supreme Court. Robert Bianchi and David Bruno have extensive experience related to Criminal Defense cases in New Jersey. Robert Bianchi and David Bruno regularly appear as national legal analysts to comment and debate on most major news networks such as: Fox News, CNN, HLN, MSNBC, Fox Business among others.
The Bianchi Law Group focuses on practice areas related to Domestic Violence, Criminal Defense, and Municipal Court matters. Contact us at 862-210-8570 to discuss this case or any other legal issues you have.