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N.J. legislators want stiffer penalties for domestic violence offenders

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Divided America Women In Office NJ

FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, file photo, New Jersey Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampitt, D- Voorhees, N.J., casts her vote during an Assembly session at the Statehouse, in Trenton, N.J. While New Jersey is making progress toward getting more women involved in politics, analysts and female lawmakers say much more can and should be done to increase the number of women who hold elected office. Only 36 of 120 seats in the state Legislature are held by women. (AP Photo/Mel Evans,file)

Mel Evans

New Jersey legislators are considering a bill that would create more severe penalties for domestic violence-related offenses.

A bipartisan bill, sponsored by Assemblymen Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden, Burlington, Ronald Dancer, R-Ocean, and others, was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee Monday. It would upgrade certain aggravated assaults committed during a violation of a restraining or protective order.

There were more than 19,000 domestic violence-related arrests made in 2015 in New Jersey, according to State Police data.

“We want to make it clear that menacing acts of domestic violence are not the same as a barroom scuffle and will not be treated as such,” Lampitt said in a statement.

Changes under the bill would include upgrading attempting to cause, purposely or knowingly, bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon from a third-degree to a second-degree crime, and upgrading attempting to or causing serious bodily injury with indifference to the value of human life from a second-degree to a first-degree crime.

The bill would also upgrade simple assault from a disorderly persons offense to a fourth-degree crime. The change could be the difference between a six-month prison sentence or fine of up to $1,000 for a disorderly persons offence to imprisonment up to 18 months or a fine of $10,000 or both for a fourth-degree crime.

Penalties for first-, second- and third-degree crimes range from three to 20 years in prison and $15,000 to $200,000 in fines.

Dancer said the majority of women who were stalked by a partner were also physically assaulted. The most common type of domestic-violence cases in 2015 were assaults followed closely by harassment, state data show.

“We need to continue fighting back by letting these offenders know they are going to jail for their terroristic and abhorrent behavior,” Dancer said in a statement. “Domestic violence is a serious problem that requires serious consequences.”

The legislation will be considered by the full Assembly.

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Previously interned and reported for, The Asbury Park Press, The Boston Globe

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