The federalization of domestic violence prevention laws is a legal issue that has come up time and time again. Currently, domestic violence laws are set by each individual state. Many states, like New Jersey, have very comprehensive legal protections for victims in a wide array of situations. However, activists and legislators throughout the years have argued for federal protections for victims of violent acts such as assault, harassment, stalking and kidnapping. Now, you may be asking yourself, what does it matter who handles the issue, as long as it's being handled?
The problem is that domestic violence protections vary from one state to another. In addition, the ability to file charges on a federal level can open up a greater range of protection for victims. Indeed, proponents argue that it's the federal government's duty to govern this issue, since domestic violence is a violation of one's civil rights. In theory, this is a legitimate argument since civil rights refer to the right of individuals to not be infringed upon by governments, social organizations and private citizens. People would generally agree that domestic violence is an infringement of one's freedoms by a private citizen. Thus, it's reasonable to believe that domestic violence prevention should be regulated by the federal government.
Unfortunately, domestic violence is a whole other issue in practice, involving politics and government hierarchies that rule over many other issues such as gun control and abortion. First, it should be noted that attempts have been made to federalize domestic violence protections. You may remember former Vice-President Joe Biden's sponsorship of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, when he was a Senator during the presidency of Bill Clinton. But in 2000, the bill's infringement of a state government's authority was ruled as unconstitutional in the U.S. Supreme Court case of United States v. Morrison. The problem is that the U.S. Government's authority to intervene under the U.S. Constitution is quite limited. In fact, much of the laws that govern us are set by our individual states, while the federal government seeks to protect each state's right to make laws, along with preserving fundamental civil rights. While protection from domestic violence may seem like one of those fundamental rights, the federal government ultimately cannot supersede existing state laws.
This is arguably good or bad depending on the state you live in. Thankfully, New Jersey is one of the states that seek to protect as many victims as possible through a wide, encompassing definition of what it means to be a victim. Protection was even extended to an escort who applied for a restraining order against a former client. In addition, New Jersey's domestic violence prevention laws include many harassing and menacing behaviors. As a result, more victims are able to seek legal protections, even if they don't wish to file criminal chargers against their attacker. For more information on your domestic violence rights and legal options, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.