If you've recently been served with a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in New Jersey, you may have concerns about whether it will show up on background checks. Even if the TRO is ultimately dismissed, records of the TRO might show up in court documents and law enforcement arrest records. You might be wondering whether it's possible to get these records expunged to make sure the TRO doesn't show up on background checks.
The good news is that if a TRO is dismissed without becoming a Final Restraining Order (FRO), your chances of having it pop up in records searches is minimal. And it will never show up in a criminal background check because a restraining order is a civil action, not a criminal one. However, once the TRO is issued, it is generally noted in court records and law enforcement records, and it remains there even after the TRO expires or is dismissed.
So, can you get these records expunged? Technically, the answer is no. The term expungement only refers to deleting criminal records, and since a TRO is not a criminal record, expungement does not apply. However, as long as the TRO was dismissed without being finalized, you may still be able to petition for expungement-like relief with the help of an experienced New Jersey defense attorney. Doing so may remove all mentions of the TRO from public court and law enforcement records, so there's less chance that it will appear in deeper records searches.
Removing a TRO that was dismissed is neither automatic nor guaranteed, however. Hiring a good attorney with experience in restraining orders can make the difference between success and failure. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many clients dealing with the effects of restraining orders in New Jersey and will work tirelessly to help you obtain expungement-like relief for your TRO.
How Restraining Orders Work in New Jersey
A restraining order is a judge's order that prohibits a specific individual from approaching or coming into contact with another person. Restraining orders are most often associated with cases of domestic violence where a spouse, domestic partner, live-in family member, or dating partner seeks protection from the other person. If you're served with a restraining order, you'll be “restrained” from contact with the petitioner (plaintiff). You may be forced from your home, and your custody rights may also be affected.
Many restraining orders cases begin with a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), which goes into effect immediately and lasts for up to ten days, pending a formal hearing. At the hearing, the judge will hear arguments from both sides before deciding whether to dismiss the TRO, allow it to expire, or make it a Final Restraining Order (FRO). Once a FRO is issued, it is permanent and stays in effect until one of the parties successfully petitions a judge to rescind it.
Does a TRO Show Up in Public Records or a Criminal Background Check?
Restraining orders are civil actions and may be in effect independently of any criminal charges of domestic violence. As such, neither TROs nor FROs are noted on criminal records and do not show up in standard criminal background checks. The main exception is if you are convicted of criminal contempt for violating a restraining order. If that happens, the contempt conviction (indicating a restraining order violation) will show up on background checks.
In addition, every restraining order issued (temporary or final) is noted in publicly searchable court records and police databases--so unless you can get these records removed, they could show up in deeper records searches or on the Domestic Violence Central Registry. Even a TRO that was dismissed could show up in some records searches unless you have it removed by expungement relief.
What Is Expungement?
An expungement is a court procedure that can help someone with a criminal history erase his or her record from the public eye. Many lesser criminal convictions are eligible for expungement in New Jersey five years after the sentence has been served.
Can Restraining Orders Be Expunged?
Restraining orders are not eligible for expungement because they aren't considered criminal convictions and don't appear on criminal background checks, anyway. In some cases, restraining orders that are no longer active may be removed from court records and police databases upon request. Likewise, if you're convicted of violating a restraining order, that conviction may be eligible for expungement if you meet the qualifications.
The TRO Against Me was Dismissed. Can I Get It Removed from Court Records?
In many/most cases, yes. A TRO is considered a stopgap measure to provide temporary relief for the victim of domestic violence. If you successfully challenge the plaintiff's request for a final restraining order at your hearing, the judge will dismiss the TRO, and it won't become a FRO. Once the TRO is dismissed, your attorney can petition to have all records related to the TRO stricken from court and law enforcement records. Although this is technically not an expungement since TROs are not criminal records, it is similar to expungement because it hides all references to the restraining order from public view.
Get Help with Your TRO Today
If you have been served with a temporary restraining order in New Jersey, it's important to seek legal help as soon as possible. If your TRO becomes final, it remains in effect indefinitely and may easily appear in the Domestic Violence Central Registry and other records searches. Your best bet for keeping the restraining order off public records is to successfully challenge it at the final restraining order hearing--and your best chance of success is to hire an attorney with specific experience challenging restraining orders. Once you get the TRO dismissed, your attorney can move toward getting you expungement-like relief so the TRO can't come back to haunt you in the future.
The Lento Law Firm has helped many defendants successfully defend against restraining orders in New Jersey. To see how we can help, call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.