Police licensing has begun in earnest and one of the areas that will be targeted by the Police Training Commission are domestic violence matters. Allegations of domestic violence carry serious consequences in terms of licensing. N.J.A.C. § 13:1-10.1 provides that any person employed as a law enforcement officer, including a full-time permanent law enforcement officer; a class one, class two, or class three special law enforcement officer; or a probationary or temporary law enforcement officer shall hold a valid, active license as a law enforcement officer. N.J.A.C. § 13:1-12.1(g)(2) states that proof of a conviction for “an act of domestic violence pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 et seq.” shall “result in the mandatory denial of licensure, a refusal to renew a license, or a revocation of licensure.” According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-19, “Domestic violence” means the occurrence of one or more of the following acts inflicted upon a person protected under this act by an adult or an emancipated minor: (1) Homicide; (2) Assault; (3) Terroristic threats; (4) Kidnapping; (5) Criminal restraint; (6) False imprisonment; (7) Sexual assault; (8) Criminal sexual contact; (9) Lewdness; (10) Criminal mischief; (11) Burglary; (12) Criminal trespass; (13) Harassment; (14) Stalking; (15) Criminal coercion; (16) Robbery N.J.S.2C:15-1; (17) Contempt of a domestic violence order pursuant that constitutes a crime or disorderly persons offense; (18) Any other crime involving risk of death or serious bodily injury to a person protected under the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991,” (C.2C:25-17 et al.); or (19) Cyber-harassment P.L.2013, c.272 (C.2C:33-4.1). Therefore, N.J.A.C. § 13:1-12.1(g)(2) makes it abundantly clear that a conviction for an act of domestic violence (as defined by N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-19) will be fatal to one’s ability to obtain or maintain a law enforcement license in New Jersey.

What about when an officer is not subject to criminal charges of domestic violence, and instead has a temporary restraining order (TRO) imposed upon them that is later dismissed? Pursuant to N.J.A.C. § 13:1-12.1(e)(1)(iii), the Commission also “shall have the authority to deny a license to an applicant, refuse to renew a license, or impose adverse licensure actions, upon proof by a preponderance of evidence, that the applicant or licensee has committed acts that constitute a criminal violation as evidenced by… the entry of a domestic violence restraining order issued pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 et seq.” This provision is not as narrowly tailored as the previously once referenced. And unlike the prior provision discussed, it does not absolutely mandate revocation or denial as a domestic violence conviction does. I recently spoke to a family law practitioner who, ironically, questioned what the term “domestic violence restraining order” meant as used in the licensing regulations. The point was well-taken because the provision does not distinguish between a TRO or a final restraining order (FRO). But I don’t believe that distinction is necessary.

For one, if an officer has a FRO imposed upon them, they can’t be licensed as they won’t be able to carry a firearm. Secondly, by using the phrase “upon proof by a preponderance of evidence,” it implies that the Commission can take action against any individual accused of domestic violence, even if that person was acquitted of an underlying criminal charge. This is because prosecutors in a criminal case have a higher burden of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) than the Commission has in an adverse licensing action (proof by a preponderance of evidence). Moreover, because a TRO would qualify as a “domestic violence restraining order issued pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 et seq.” this means the Commission can impose an adverse licensure action (up to denial and or non-renewal), pursuant to N.J.A.C. § 13:1-12.1(e)(1)(iii), even if that TRO is dismissed and never becomes a FRO. In such cases, N.J.A.C. § 13:1-12.1(e)(1)(iii) allows the Commission to review the specific facts associated with a case and make their own determination, even if it involved the imposition of a TRO which is later dismissed.

Police licensing is obviously new in New Jersey and “adverse licensing actions” have only recently started to be filed against officers. We will do our best to keep readers updated with the various decisions stemming from these actions as they will likely aid in our ongoing efforts to interpret these regulations and statutes.

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Photo of Michael DeRose Michael DeRose

Michael P. DeRose is a shareholder at the firm and primarily focuses his practice in labor/ employment law and other aspects of civil litigation, such as contract disputes. He has litigated and tried hundreds of matters before the Superior Court of New Jersey…

Michael P. DeRose is a shareholder at the firm and primarily focuses his practice in labor/ employment law and other aspects of civil litigation, such as contract disputes. He has litigated and tried hundreds of matters before the Superior Court of New Jersey, the Office of Administrative Law and the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission on behalf of various labor unions and their members. Michael has extensive experience defending and fighting for members of law enforcement and other public employees facing adverse disciplinary action, such as termination or suspension from employment. He also frequently argues before New Jersey’s Appellate Division on behalf of his clients.

A large portion of his practice is also devoted to contract negotiations on behalf of union clients, representing such clients in grievance arbitration/ contract disputes, and otherwise advising union leaders on labor and employment matters.  Michael also has significant experience in the realm of interest arbitration on behalf of the firm’s law enforcement and firefighter unions. As a result of the firm’s robust labor and employment practice, Michael regularly appears before various state agencies, such as the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, the New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits, the State Health Benefits Commission, and NJ PERC. In addition to representing labor unions and active employees, Michael also represents retirees before the Division of Pensions in disability retirement applications, both ordinary and accidental disability retirement, in pension forfeiture actions, and in other miscellaneous pension disputes. He also counsels private business and their principals in contract and employment law, in addition to representing their interests in civil litigation. Michael has a track record of obtaining favorable outcomes for his clients and treats each everyone of them on an individual and particularized basis in accordance with their needs.

Before joining the firm in August of 2015, Michael was an associate counsel at a civil litigation firm out in Trenton, New Jersey, where he principally focused his practice around employment law and tort claims litigation. Prior to that, he served as a law clerk in the Superior Court of New Jersey for the Honorable F. Patrick McManimon, Mercer County Vicinage, from September of 2012 to August of 2013, where he attained significant experience in the realm of alternative dispute resolution having mediated well-over one-hundred cases, primarily related to commercial and residential landlord/ tenant disputes and contract/ business litigation. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 2012 after graduating from the Western Michigan University-Thomas M. Cooley School of Law. In 2007, he earned his Bachelor of the Arts in Criminal Justice and Public Administration from Kean University where he was a member of the Kean University baseball team and vice president of the Alpha Phi Sigma chapter of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society.

Michael is admitted to the New Jersey State Bar, the United States Federal Court for the District of New Jersey, and is a member of the Mercer County Bar Association.