Section Chief: Assistant Prosecutor Sonja Furlow
Unit Commander: Sergeant Michelle Chambers-Larsen
The Domestic Violence Unit investigates and prosecutes every indictable domestic violence incident occurring in Camden County, as well as disorderly persons offenses involving violations of restraining orders. In addition, the Unit handles all weapons forfeiture motions involving weapons seized from persons involved in acts of domestic violence. An investigator and an assistant prosecutor are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide investigative assistance and legal advice to law enforcement agencies in the county. The Unit also provides training to law enforcement officers and regularly participates in seminars in an effort to educate groups likely to have contact with victims of domestic violence.
DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The Domestic Violence Unit consists of two sections, each devoted to investigating and prosecuting acts of domestic violence. The first section consists of three full-time assistant prosecutors, one sergeant and five investigators. They investigate indictable acts of domestic violence alleged in the county’s 37 municipalities. Both investigators and assistant prosecutors are on call around the clock to respond to calls for investigative assistance and legal advice. These cases are then prepared and presented to the Grand Jury within the Unit.
The second section of the Unit is responsible for the prosecution of violations of restraining orders, criminal contempt under N.J.S. 2C:29-9b, in Superior Court, Family Division. An assistant prosecutor, working part-time for the Domestic Violence Unit, prosecutes the violations and is assisted by an investigator.
Successful prosecution of domestic violence offenses is often difficult because victims are likely to reconcile with their abuser for any number of reasons and subsequently recant. The Domestic Violence law, N.J.S. 2C:25-17, et. seq., mandates arrest in incidents where there is probable cause to believe an offense has been committed and the victim displays visible injuries, as well as when there is probable cause to believe that a Domestic Violence Restraining Order has been violated.
The Domestic Violence Unit in Camden County follows a protocol of evidence-based prosecution, allowing for the prosecution of an abuser in cases where the victim refuses to cooperate. To accomplish this objective, it is essential all admissible evidence be obtained while it is still available, such as photographs of injuries and the crime scene, identifying any independent witnesses and obtaining taped statements from them, securing 9-1-1 tapes, as well as any available video surveillance, medical records, and phone records. Without these investigative efforts, hundreds of cases involving violence between intimate partners and household members would be dismissed for lack of evidence.
Studies show society pays a high price for tolerance of domestic violence in terms of the cost of emergency room care, increases in the rates of truancy, drug addiction, alcoholism and suicide among children growing up in abusive homes. Studies have further found children exposed to violence in the home often grow up to be abusers themselves. In response to this, the Prosecutor’s Office has devoted valuable resources to combating this problem through investigation and prosecution. Equally important are the education and training the Unit provides to police departments and to the community in general.