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A measure sponsored by Assemblywomen L. Grace Spencer and Cleopatra Tucker and Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, which would bolster the rights of domestic violence victims, unanimously cleared the full Assembly on Monday by a vote of 75-0.

“Victims of domestic violence have already had their personal rights violated, so we must ensure that if they are simply trying to protect themselves from an abuser that all of the facts and circumstances involved are considered,” Spencer said (D-Essex/Union).

The measure (A-2258) would create a self-defense justification for domestic violence victims. Under the bill, evidence surrounding a domestic violence restraining order would be admissible and relevant to determining if the use of force to protect oneself was justifiable by an individual protected by the order toward the person who is the subject of that restraining order.

“Changing the law to ensure all facts related to domestic violence are carefully reviewed is paramount to protecting the rights of thousands of New Jerseyans who are victims of domestic violence,” said Tucker (D-Essex).

Under the bill, a host of evidence – including the existence of a temporary or permanent restraining order, the circumstances leading to the issuance of the order, any conduct constituting a violation of the order, including a prior violation, and any prior acts constituting domestic violence, involving the actor and the person against whom force was directed – would be admissible and relevant in determining whether the actor, on this occasion, reasonably believed that the force used was immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting the actor against the use of unlawful force.

“Restraining orders are a means to an end, but not always the perfect solution,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “If a victim is forced to defend themselves because the restraining order failed to fully protect them, then these factors need to be taken into consideration.”