On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.
(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).
In this appeal, the Court determines whether the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -33 (Domestic Violence Act or Act), authorizes New Jersey courts to issue domestic violence restraining orders when the victim has fled to New Jersey in order to seek shelter from abuse that occurred out-of-state and the abuser commits an act of domestic violence in New Jersey.
Defendant, Noel Reyes, and Florinda Silva were married and living together with their child in the Bronx, New York. On the morning of April 27, 2000, the couple had an argument, which resulted in Reyes screaming at Silva and slapping her in the face. After Reyes left for work, Silva telephoned her sister, who lived in Somerville, New Jersey, and made arrangements for her and her child to go to her sister's apartment.
That evening, Reyes appeared at the Somerville apartment seeking to speak with Silva. Silva denied Reyes entry into the apartment. Reyes, however, repeatedly knocked on the door and rang the doorbell. Frightened, Silva and her sister telephoned the Somerville police, who arrived shortly thereafter. Silva told the police of the incident that morning in New York that led her to seek shelter in New Jersey. She was transported to the police station where she filed a Domestic Violence Civil Complaint describing the events that had occurred that evening at her sister's apartment. In her complaint, Silva added that she had fled to New Jersey because Reyes had struck her at their home in New York. She also marked the word "harassment" on the complaint.
Later that night, a Somerville Municipal Court judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against Reyes, prohibiting him from "returning to the scene of violence," and further prohibiting future acts of violence or any other form of contact with Silva or her sister. The order was returnable before the Somerset Superior Court on May 4. On the return date of the order, Silva told the judge that Reyes had attempted to speak with her that morning to dissuade her from pursuing the complaint, and further that Reyes "doesn't leave [her] alone." Based on Reyes' communication with her earlier that morning, Silva filed another complaint against him, alleging that Reyes had knowingly and purposefully violated the TRO. As a result, the court ordered Reyes' arrest.
Following the hearing on the TRO, the judge issued a Domestic Violence Final Restraining Order (FRO), based on the testimony of both Silva and Reyes regarding the incident that occurred in New York on April 27. The court's finding of an act of violence was limited to that assault. Although Silva had alleged in her complaint that Reyes had assaulted her on prior occasions, the judge did not make any findings in respect of those assaults.
On June 15, Reyes pled guilty to violating the April 27, 2000, TRO. He was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay miscellaneous fines for the May 4 violation.
The Appellate Division reversed the entry of the FRO. The panel found that the assault did not constitute an act of domestic violence within the meaning of the Act, applying the jurisdictional limits of the Code of Criminal Justice, which requires the assault to occur in this State.
The Supreme Court granted the State's petition for certification, as well as the motions of Legal Services of New Jersey and the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women for leave to appear as amici curiae.
HELD: New Jersey's Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -33, authorizes New Jersey courts to issue domestic violence restraining orders when the victim has fled to New Jersey to seek shelter from abuse that occurred out-of-state and the abuser commits an act of domestic violence in New Jersey. Moreover, New Jersey courts may assert jurisdiction when the only act of domestic violence occurred out-or-state where the victim seeks refuge in New Jersey and the defendant pursues the victim in this State for the purpose of making contact with the victim.
1. The Legislature enacted the Domestic Violence Act to assure victims of domestic violence maximum protection from abuse the law can provide. Given the remedial nature of the Act, the Legislature directed that it be construed liberally. (p. 7)
2. The Act sets forth fourteen offenses, including assault and harassment, that constitute domestic violence and provides both emergency and long-term civil and criminal remedies and sanctions, and encourages the broad application of those remedies in the courts of this State. Thus, a victim may apply for relief under the Act in a court having jurisdiction over the place where the alleged act of violence occurred, where the defendant resides, or where the plaintiff resides or is sheltered. (pp. 8-9)
3. New Jersey courts have concluded that New Jersey has jurisdiction to issue an FRO to a victim sheltered in New Jersey, even when the act of domestic violence occurred in another state. (pp. 9-15)
4. Apart from whether Reyes' conduct in New York alone was a basis for jurisdiction, his subsequent and separate harassment of Silva in New Jersey justifies the lower courts' assertion of jurisdiction. (pp. 15-18)
5. The Appellate Division erred in applying the general jurisdictional requirements for the prosecution of criminal offenses set forth in the Code of Criminal Justice at the expense of the specific jurisdictional authorization found in the domestic violence statute. There is no indication that the Legislature intended to incorporate the Criminal Code's jurisdictional requirement. (pp. 19-20)
6. Because this is not a criminal proceeding, the provisions of the Criminal Code do not limit the jurisdiction of New Jersey courts. (pp. 20-21)
7. In order to provide comprehensive protection to victims of domestic abuse who seek shelter, New Jersey courts must be able to issue restraining orders against abusers who pursue their victims in this State. (pp. 21-22)
Judgment of the Appellate Division is REVERSED.
CHIEF JUSTICE PORITZ and JUSTICES STEIN, COLEMAN, LONG, VERNIERO, and LaVECCHIA join in JUSTICE ZAZZALI's opinion.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Zazzali, J.
This appeal requires us to determine whether the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -33 (Domestic Violence Act or Act), authorizes New Jersey courts to issue domestic violence restraining orders when the victim has fled to New Jersey in order to seek shelter from abuse that occurred out-of-state and the abuser commits an act of domestic violence in New Jersey.
The trial court issued a Final Restraining Order (FRO) to Florinda Silva (Silva) based on a finding that her husband, defendant Noel Reyes, struck Silva at their residence in New York. The Appellate Division reversed, reasoning that New Jersey courts lack jurisdiction to issue an FRO based solely on an act of domestic violence occurring out-of-state. Because the record demonstrates that an act of domestic violence did occur in New Jersey, thus conferring jurisdiction on our courts, we reverse. We also hold that when the only act of domestic violence occurred out-of-state, New Jersey courts nevertheless may assert ...