Lagana & Mazzeo Introduce Bill to Toughen Punishment for Domestic Violence Offenses Committed in Front of Children

(TRENTON) – Assembly Democrats Joseph Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic) and Vince Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) have introduced legislation that would toughen the punishment for individuals convicted of committing a domestic violence offense in front of a child younger than 16 years of age.

“Children who witness domestic violence are often scarred for life. Boys in particular are more likely to become abusers if they grew up in a violent home,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This is a crime that has long-lasting physical, mental and emotional consequences. Such factors should be considered when sentencing an individual convicted of committing such violence in front of a child.”

“The trauma of domestic violence is not limited to the person subjected to the physical attack. Children who are exposed to violence are victims as well, and the effects are often damaging and long-lasting,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Given the extent of the damage and victimization, it is only just that those who perpetuate such cowardly behavior in front of children are punished accordingly.”

The bill (A-4294) makes a domestic violence offense committed in the presence of a child under 16 years of age an aggravating factor. An aggravating factor is any fact or circumstance that increases the severity or culpability of a criminal act. A court will consider the aggravating factors in a case when determining the appropriate sentence for a person who has been convicted of an offense.

The bill would take effect immediately.

The bill has been referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.