Criminal Coercion Defense Lawyers in NJ Fighting 2C:13-5 Charges
Have you ever watched an episode of a crime drama and right as an investigation is closing in on a domestic violence perpetrator, the victim or another interested party decides he or she is no longer interested in testifying against this individual, ultimately making the case against him or her crumble? After questioning the victim about his or her change in heart, it is uncovered that the perpetrator stopped the victim from testifying because of threats of the perpetrator killing the victim, taking their children away from the victim, or exposing lewd photos of the victim that could end his or her career. This is a prime example of criminal coercion, which could land you in jail in New Jersey. The list of examples goes on and on but the premise is the same: one threatens or forces another through intimidation to prevent that person from saying or doing something, or make them do or say something. Charges for criminal coercion happen all the time to people of all stripes, many of whom are also accused of domestic violence and facing companion restraining orders.
The experienced criminal and domestic violence defense lawyers at The Tormey Law Firm can fight all manner of criminal charges and restraining orders that you may be facing based on alleged criminal coercion and other crimes in New Jersey. With several convenient office locations in Hackensack, Morristown, Newark, Middletown, and New Brunswick, we assist clients statewide. Whether you have to appear in criminal court, family court, or both to defend your innocence, our attorneys bring thousands of successfully handled cases to bear when working on behalf of you or a loved one. Call (201)-556-1570 for a free consultation about your case and find out how we can help with your top defense.
Meaning of Criminal Coercion in New Jersey
Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:13-5, an individual is found guilty of criminal coercion if he or she unlawfully restricts another’s “freedom of action.” This restrictive conduct is defined by seven threats that define criminal coercion pursuant to the statute. In short, this means that a person is guilty of this crime if you have stopped someone from doing something or forced them into doing something by threat, including:
- He or she will inflict bodily injury on the person or someone else
- To accuse someone else of an offense
- To expose a damaging secret
- To take or withhold an action in a professional capacity
- To bring about a particular action
- To testify/withhold information in another legal matter or defense
- To perform an act that would substantially benefit the actor and harm some else (health, professionally, financially, etc.).
In this case, the definition of criminal coercion under the statute is quite broad so the actual conduct itself varies and may even bleed into other crimes for purposes of restraining orders and other charges and situations.
Penalties for NJ Criminal Coercion Offenses can be Severe
Criminal Coercion is a fourth degree crime unless the actor’s purpose is criminal, in which case the crime is considered third degree. A conviction for a 3rd degree criminal coercion offense ranges from 3-5 years of imprisonment and up to $15,000 in fines. A conviction for a fourth degree criminal coercion offense ranges up to 18 months in prison and a maximum fine of up to $10,000.
Criminal Coercion is a Form of Domestic Violence under NJ Law
Criminal coercion is included as a form of domestic violence and considered a predicate act for filing for a restraining order. By statute alone, criminal coercion is considered as a form of threatening behavior or conduct that is used to intimidate another. In the realm of domestic violence, that very type of behavior can be what prevents someone from filing for an order of protection or getting out of a threatening environment.
What does this mean for a temporary restraining order? For a temporary restraining order, one needs to allege certain examples of particular conduct that will allow for the Court to intervene and provide protection through an order. These acts are considered predicate acts of domestic violence. In New Jersey, there are numerous criminal offenses that constitute domestic violence, from stalking to criminal mischief, assault, and burglary. These predicate acts can lead to companion criminal charges, which means that in addition to the restraining order, governed by the Chancery Division, Family Part, there are charges governed by the Criminal Part of the Superior Court.
Criminal coercion poses a unique aspect to domestic violence cases because the victim may be threatened to a point where he or she drops the order or to the point where the plaintiff fears for his or her safety so much that the conduct is considered a predicate act for the Court to issue a temporary restraining order. Either way, one of the parties is so threatened that he or she may fear for safety. It may even impact witnesses of a domestic violence situation. For example, if a victim’s parent, neighbor or friend may decide to testify against the alleged perpetrator and he or she threatens their lives or more, the alleged perpetrator may also be facing criminal coercion charges.
How Criminal Coercion Plays a Role in Restraining Order Case
For restraining order hearings, and under the pivotal case Silver v. Silver, it is the plaintiff’s burden to prove the predicate act of domestic violence and the need for protection. As described above, a predicate act, or even the history of such, can be proven in countless ways. This may be difficult for a plaintiff to testify to because a defendant will also be at a final restraining order hearing, but an attorney can guide you through this process. Moreover, if you are the plaintiff to a restraining order, it is important to understand the facts, evidence and everything that needs to be presented to make your position as strong as possible.
Criminal Coercion is not the only offense used as a predicate act of domestic violence. For example, harassment, terroristic threats, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, sexual assault, lewdness, criminal sexual contact, kidnapping, criminal trespass, robbery, contempt and cyber-harassment, are all included under this umbrella. Thus, for a plaintiff to effectively obtain a permanent restraining order against a defendant, there must be a certain relationship under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, one or more predicate acts of domestic violence have been committed by the defendant, and there being a continued need for protection.
How an Experienced NJ Criminal Coercion Attorney can Help
The crime of criminal coercion is not only applicable to domestic violence situations. Instead, it is a criminal offense that can have different victims involved and occur on a situational basis. It most easily can be found in domestic violence cases because of threats and intimidation generally being involved in those cases. If you are facing criminal coercion charges, it is extremely important to seek counsel because you are facing a third or fourth degree felony. And just because you are accused of such offense does not mean you are automatically guilty. Instead, the totality of the circumstances need to be viewed and it is important to discuss what exactly you are facing with your current charge. In addition, the offense of criminal coercion can lead to other offenses and charges based on the alleged conduct at hand, making it all the more necessary to have the best criminal defense lawyer you can find on your side.
Whether you are facing a restraining order hearing, have criminal coercion charges, or you are dealing with multiple legal issues related to supposedly coercive conduct in New Jersey, contact The Tormey Law Firm today to discuss your case with an attorney free of charge. You can reach us 24/7 at (201)-556-1570 for a free consultation.