Interviewer: What are the more common misconceptions that people have about domestic violence and assault charges?
Lauren Scardella: There are people who think that they can just get out of it because their girlfriend or spouse or whomever is going to just drop the charges. But the charges are not the victim’s to drop. Once their complaint has been filed, they’re the State’s charges. That being said, if the victim is not willing to testify, it puts the prosecutor in a difficult position because without a witness, he can’t really prosecute effectively.
A Victim Cannot Have the Charges Dropped in a Domestic Violence Case
Because they’re not the victim’s charges, the victim can’t go in and say, “I’m dropping these. That’s it, it’s over.” Although the victim can go to the prosecutor and say he or she is not willing to testify, the prosecutor can compel the testimony by issuing a subpoena. There are some cultures where people don’t understand why it’s a big deal to hit a spouse or a girlfriend or a boyfriend because it’s just ingrained in them that if, for example, your wife does something you don’t like, you hit her. There’s certainly some pressure in some of those situations for the wife to drop the charges because the husband is not really sure why he got charged to begin with and thinks it is a private matter that the police and courts shouldn’t be involved with.
Immigrants that Have Recently Moved to the United States May be Unfamiliar with Domestic Violence Laws
That’s certainly not true of all cultures and it’s certainly not true of everybody within a specific culture, but it tends to happen more with immigrants who have recently come to this country. They don’t necessarily know the way that things like domestic violence are viewed here. Another misconception that some people have is that you should absolutely have a female lawyer defend you because it looks better to the prosecutor. I’m a female lawyer and I can tell you that the prosecutor knows that I’m just doing my job. He doesn’t really look at me differently as if I am giving a stamp of approval to the act of the domestic violence by representing that person. What you want is a lawyer, whether male or female, that will represent you zealously and effectively and who will pursue the best outcome for you. That’s something that we do especially well in our practice.
Pointing a Gun at a Person Results in Aggravated Assault Charges in New Jersey
Interviewer: In a situation where two people are in a dispute and someone points a gun at them, that could lead someone to have a whole set of different charges?
Lauren Scardella: It really could, especially In New Jersey where gun laws are very strict. On one hand we tend not to have as many of those types of confrontations as you might in certain states that have less strict laws regarding guns. An average law-abiding citizen either doesn’t own a gun and in 99% of cases, even if they do own a gun, they’re not allowed to carry it around. Somebody who is not law-abiding and has an illegal weapon or a legal weapon that they’re carrying around, if they get into altercation with somebody and they point the gun at them, could end up with aggravated assault and weapons charges. There could be absolutely no physical confrontation, but just the act of pointing that gun is going to be an aggravated assault.