Domestic violence is a broad term that encompasses many different prohibited behaviors or predicate acts between two individuals in a relationship. These prohibited behaviors are defined under the NJ Prevention of Domestic Violence Act or PDVA. Depending on the circumstances that surround the event, a case of domestic violence may be considered either a misdemeanor or a felony. 

There are factors that come into play if a domestic violence charge will be considered a felony or a petty offense. These offenses will each be heard in different courts, and the consequences will be on opposite ends of the spectrum. Here is a guide to differentiating between a domestic violence felony charge from a misdemeanor. 

Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Cases in the NJ Municipal Trial Court

As long as the domestic violence charges are not connected to an indictable offense, they will not be considered felonies. Domestic violence charges as misdemeanors may also be referred to as a “disorderly persons offense.” Some examples of these are if the predicate acts involve harassment, trespassing, or criminal mischief. These are all petty disorderly persons offenses. 

However, they can still land a person in court. If the case is heard, and the judge finds the defendant guilty, the person may face jail time for up to 6 months, and may also have to undergo probation and pay up to $1,000 in legal fines. 

A disorderly persons offense may not be considered a felony, but it may appear on the person’s criminal record. They may not fall under the classification of felony crimes, but they may be considered criminal in the sense that if there is a conviction, the person may suffer loss of freedom to some extent. 

Domestic Violence as a Felony

A domestic violence felony case will be heard in the Supreme Court where the crime is charged. A person may face far more exceedingly severe consequences if they have been charged with a felony or indictable offense. It is a much more serious offense in comparison to a misdemeanor, and will require a jury to decide the fate of the defendant. 

If the defendant is convicted, they face jail time that will be consistent with the crime that was committed. The amount of the jail sentence will usually be mandated by state laws. Domestic violence charges as felonies will usually be accompanied by much heavier and more grievous crimes, such as burglary, sexual assault, and homicide, to name a few. 

The Degree of Domestic Violence Charge in NJ

The degree of a domestic violence charge will depend on the actions and circumstances connected to the incident. For example, a trespassing offense can be considered a disorderly persons offense and classified as a fourth-degree crime, depending on the circumstances. The degree of the crime will depend on how much damage the person caused. In turn, the crime’s degree will also play a part in determining the severity of the punishment to be carried out.

On the other hand, domestic violence charges that are elevated to felony charges are graver because of the nature of the relationship of the parties involved. It makes sense to say that the crime becomes more serious if the two parties are supposedly dating, and one of the parties physically assaults the other. 


A simple assault charge may be filed regardless of the relationship between the people involved. However, if the people involved were dating, the crime may be escalated to a felony charge. If you think you have committed this type of charge, it is within your best interest to contact a lawyer to be able to determine the next move that will help your case.

Whether you are looking to file a domestic violence charge, need legal counsel for this type of case, or if you need more information on the subject of domestic violence charges, Bruno and Ferraro can help you. Bruno and Ferraro is a law firm that handles cases pertaining to criminal defenses, personal injury, family law, will and estate planning, real estate, and more. Get in touch with Attorney Ferraro and our other associates today!