In New Jersey, one person can file a restraining order (RO) against another if they feel their physical safety is at risk. Until recently, however, you could only get an RO for domestic violence—meaning you had to have a prior relationship with the person. A new state law has changed this restriction, and now, it's easier for victims of stalking and abuse to get an RO in New Jersey.
The New Law Has More Protections for Victims
In July 2023, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a new law that closes the so-called “stranger loophole” with restraining orders. Before this law took effect, people seeking a restraining order could only do so if they had a prior relationship with the person they wanted to file the RO against. The only exception was for stalking cases involving minors and adults with mental disabilities.
Before this law, if someone was being stalked by a person they didn't have a domestic relationship with, they couldn't get a restraining order against that person. That has now changed. If someone is being stalked, they can file for an RO and place restrictions on the person who is allegedly stalking them.
It's Now Easier to Get an RO in New Jersey
Some consider this new law expansion as a triumph for victims of abuse and stalking. While it certainly affords more protections and can help individuals feel safer, it also has some serious downsides for people accused of stalking or abuse.
Having a restraining order against you is a big deal. It doesn't allow you to be near the person who filed the RO, even in public spaces. If you work or live with this person, you can't show up to work, and you have to move out. An RO can even prevent you from seeing your kids.
Imagine how easy it would be for someone to file an RO against you. Anyone who might consider that you're stalking them can file for an RO and have your movements restricted. It could be someone you have to interact with regularly, such as a coworker or classmate. Since the courts tend to err on the side of protecting the alleged victim, it's highly likely that an RO against you gets approved. It may only be a temporary RO that's in place for a few weeks until the formal RO hearing, where you can defend yourself. But still, it could place unjust restrictions on you simply because someone accused you of stalking.
What to Do if You Have an RO Filed Against You
Once you get served with an RO in New Jersey, you should contact a restraining order defense attorney. The Lento Law Firm helps with RO matters and can guide you through the process, advising on the best way to handle it. They can help you prepare for your hearing by gathering evidence or locating character witnesses to testify for you. Don't try to defend your RO alone—you risk having it become permanent. Call 888-535-3686 or contact us online today to book a consultation.