Final restraining orders in New Jersey do not expire and show up in a background search indefinitely. Restraining orders are also civil rather than criminal in nature. Because expungement applies to criminal records, not civil records, you cannot generally expunge a New Jersey restraining order. But you may still be able to get expungement-like relief. And if you suffered criminal charges and conviction for violating a restraining order, then expungement of the criminal record may be possible at a later time.
If the order you face is limited to a temporary restraining order, and you successfully challenge the plaintiff's request for a final restraining order, the case will have been dismissed. Upon dismissal, you can take steps to have any records related to the temporary restraining order removed from court and law enforcement records in the form of expungement-like relief so that, for example, the records related to the temporary order will not show up on a background search.
If a final restraining order was granted against you, however, then you may promptly appeal that order to try to get the final restraining order overturned and the case dismissed. If the final restraining order is dismissed on appeal, expungement-like relief will also be available to a defendant at that point in time. If, though, a final restraining order has been in place for years, for example, then you may still qualify to have the final order vacated if your expert New Jersey restraining order attorney can show the court that your circumstances have changed.
To put things simply, expungement-like relief of New Jersey restraining order records may be available to a defendant subject to specific conditions being met. An experienced attorney can help you understand your potential eligibility and can guide you through the process. Don't give up fighting an unjust restraining order that is damaging your reputation and interfering with your life. Retain New Jersey restraining order attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm.
More information about New Jersey restraining orders, potential consequences, and potential forms of relief follows below.
Restraining Orders Explained
A restraining order is an order granted by a judge that "restrains" a certain individual from having contact or being near another individual. Restraining orders are given when there are allegations of violence and are intended to keep people safe from threats or harm from someone. Most restraining order cases involve people that know each other. In many cases, the people involved in a restraining order are a former couple or are family members. If a restraining order is granted, then the individual named will be restrained and/or forbidden from certain conduct and communications with the alleged victim.
What Type of Action is a Restraining Order?
Restraining orders are considered civil matters, but a violation of a restraining order is a criminal matter. Initially, the civil court issues a temporary restraining order. The civil court then promptly schedules a hearing to determine whether to issue a final restraining order. If your expert New Jersey restraining order defense attorney helps you win the hearing and defeat the request for a final order, then the case's dismissal will have an expungement-like effect. No order will appear in the state database, and nothing should appear on a background check.
Once the civil court grants a final restraining order at a hearing, though, the provisions of that restraining order will be entered on police databases. That database entry is what makes a final restraining order, civil in nature, appear on a background check. If a call for help is made, the police have all the information of a restraining order immediately available. While a restraining order is active, no criminal record will generate unless there is an alleged violation of some kind. But the final restraining order in the database will appear on a background check.
It is important to know that you are not allowed to own a firearm if there is an active restraining order against you. You will only regain the right to own a firearm once a restraining order is lifted. If you are caught with a firearm while a restraining order is active against you, then it can lead to a criminal charge.
What Happens If You Violate a Restraining Order?
As mentioned above, restraining orders are considered civil in nature but can turn into a criminal case if there are any alleged violations. This is because any restraining order violations can lead to a criminal contempt charge. If someone is alleged to have committed a restraining order violation, then the police must arrest them under New Jersey law. Restraining order violations can result in different types of punishments depending on what type of violations are alleged and how many prior violations have occurred.
- The first violation of a restraining order can result in up to 180 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
- The second violation of a restraining order can result in a mandatory 30-day jail sentence.
If domestic violence is alleged in the violation of a restraining order, then this can result in a fourth-degree felony charge. A conviction can be punished by up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Since the violation of a restraining order results in an arrest and a criminal charge, the record of a restraining order violation ends up on your criminal record. This record may be eligible for expungement depending on the facts and circumstances of the alleged violation. Final restraining orders cannot be expunged, but some convictions for violating those orders may be expungement eligible.
What is an Expungement?
An expungement is a legal process that will allow someone who has a criminal record to erase that record from the public eye. Only specific types of crimes are eligible for expungement, and you will most likely have to wait a specific amount of time, typically five years, to seek and obtain an expungement of a criminal offense or record. Expungements are designed to only erase parts of a criminal record and cannot be used for any other purpose, such as removing an active restraining order. Don't attempt to determine on your own whether you qualify for expungement. Get the help of premier New Jersey expungement attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm.
Are Restraining Orders Eligible for Expungement?
Final restraining orders themselves are not eligible for expungement because they are not criminal in nature. Since a restraining order is not a criminal offense, an expungement will not help you. The final restraining order will remain in the police database and in court records. If you are looking to contest and remove a final restraining order, then you have other legal options but have limited time to exercise those options.
You have the right to appeal the court's issuing a final restraining order. Appeals must be filed within 45 days, or the restraining order will remain permanent unless there is new information that can lead to its removal. If you are outside the window for an appeal, then your main options to have a restraining order removed are through voluntary dismissal by the petitioner or a motion to vacate the restraining order because of changed circumstances that the judge can consider. The court will examine eleven factors to determine whether the motion to vacate should be granted. These factors are outlined in the case of Carfagno v. Carfagno, 288 N.J. Super. 424 (Ch. Div. 1995).
As referenced above, if the order you face is limited to a temporary restraining order, and you successfully challenge the plaintiff's request for a final restraining order, the case will have been dismissed. Upon dismissal, you can take steps to have any records related to the temporary restraining order removed from court and law enforcement records in the form of expungement-like relief. A benefit in doing so for a defendant is that the records related to the temporary order will not show up on a background search, for example.
Put simply, expungements are not really for restraining orders unless you have a criminal record for violating a provision of a restraining order. The best approach is instead to fight the request for a final restraining order at the hearing. If the court has already issued a final restraining order that you are looking to get rid of, then your options are instead to appeal or to move to vacate the final restraining order. If you have legal questions, then call the Lento Law Firm so we can help!
Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
If you have questions about expungements or restraining orders, then it is important that you speak to an experienced attorney. It is important to understand the restraining order process to see if you need an expungement or other legal motion and attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. To learn why Attorney Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm are the right decision to help you with your case, call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.