News has been breaking this week about Johnny Depp and his estranged wife Amber Heard, and the alleged incident of domestic violence that Amber reports happened on the night of May 21, 2016 at the couple’s Los Angeles home. What really happened between Johnny and Amber that night we may never know for sure. What we do know, however, is that the Los Angeles Police Department was called to the couple’s house at least once that evening.
What transpired when cops arrived on the scene? Amber claims that the police who came to the home saw significant injuries to her face. Injuries, she claims, were caused by Johnny when he threw “like a pitcher” a cell phone which struck her in the face. She states that the police saw the injuries, but did nothing because of their financial relationship with Johnny (certain police officers are reported to have provided security for him when off-duty.) According to the LAPD police log, the police officers saw no signs of physical abuse and no injuries to Amber. Amber did not indicate, at that time, she was assaulted. Because of that, no arrests were made.
What if this incident happened in New Jersey? Much like in California, here in New Jersey the law that governs police protocols during domestic violence incidents, mandates that a law enforcement officer must make an arrest and sign the criminal complaint when:
1. Signs of Injury. The victim shows signs of injury caused by an act of domestic violence. Signs of injury can be any indication that a victim has suffered bodily injury, including:
• Physical pain, or
• Any impairment of physical condition
2. Where there are no visible signs of physical injury but the victim states that an injury occurred, the officer should consider other relevant factors in determining whether there is probable cause to make an arrest. (N.J.S.A. 2C:25-21(a))
If the same situation occurred here in New Jersey and the responding police officers saw no signs of injury and received no report of injury, Johnny Depp would most likely not be subject to arrest. This is not because police doubt the victim. In fact, the LAPD stated that when they first arrived at Amber and Johnny’s home, Amber told them that she was fine and simply had an argument with her husband. She told them this through a small crack in their front door. The police insisted that she open the door full and let them in, to ensure that she was not being forced or pressured to tell them that from someone inside whom they could not see.
Domestic violence remains an epidemic in New Jersey and the United States and should never be taken lightly. New Jersey, and many other states, have made strides in drafting comprehensive legislation and in training law enforcement and the courts in how to recognize and handle domestic violence situations.
It is never easy for police to become involved in domestic situations. However, their first concern should always be the safety of the victim at that moment. If you are in a violent situation, help is available, including obtaining a temporary restraining order. In an emergency, contact the police immediately and let them know that you are being abused.
The law is on your side. To discuss your domestic violence legal options, please contact us to schedule your initial confidential consultation.