If you're facing a restraining order hearing or if a court notifies you that it has issued a temporary restraining order against you, you're no doubt wondering what to do next. While a New Jersey restraining order, known as Final Restraining Order (FRO), isn't a criminal action, it can have lasting consequences on your life. You can face restrictions on whether you can contact or approach a family member or your children. You can also face career consequences, and your license as a registered nurse practitioner may also be in jeopardy. That's why it's essential to retain an attorney experienced in handling restraining orders immediately after you're served with the notice.
Restraining Orders in New Jersey
Domestic violence is an issue across the country, but in New Jersey, our legislators have taken strong actions to prevent violence in families. In 1982, the New Jersey legislature enacted the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, which created a legal process for victims of family violence to seek a restraining order to keep an alleged assailant from approaching or contacting them. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. The legal process includes temporary and final restraining orders.
Temporary Restraining Orders
The Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) process begins at the applicant's local police station or the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court at a county courthouse. The applicant will fill out paperwork about the alleged abuse, including specific details of any incidents of abuse, and then have an ex parte hearing with a judge. An ex parte hearing happens with only one party present, so the court will not notify you of the hearing, and you won't have the right to appear. If the judge grants the TRO, law enforcement will serve you with the TRO and an order for a final restraining order hearing. The TRO remains in place until the final hearing, typically about ten days, and you must follow any conditions in the temporary order. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a).
Final Restraining Orders
The final hearing for the restraining order will be a formal court hearing. You have the right to appear with an attorney and present witnesses and evidence to the court. If a judge grants a FRO, it will remain in place until one of you asks the court to remove it, preventing you from contacting or approaching the applicant. Once the court enters the order, the police will place your information, fingerprints, and photograph in the state's Domestic Violence Registry. A final restraining order can also remove you from a shared home, affect custody and visitation of your children, and prevent you from owning or carrying a firearm. In many cases, a FRO can also affect your career as a registered nurse practitioner.
Will a Restraining Order Appear in Background Checks?
While a Final Restraining Order isn't a criminal conviction, a FRO in New Jersey may still appear in some background checks, depending on how thorough they are and whether they include civil case records.
Criminal Background Searches
A New Jersey restraining order is a civil, not criminal, order. In theory, it shouldn't appear in a criminal background check. However, New Jersey also has a searchable, state-wide database of all New Jersey restraining orders, which law enforcement agencies use to locate and enforce restraining orders. Whether your FRO will appear in a background check can depend largely on the specific databases that an agency or company uses to perform its search.
Civil Court Case Files Searches
As a civil court order, a restraining order may often appear in a search of civil court case records in New Jersey. Many online “background checks” search criminal as well as civil court records, which can reveal many types of court actions, including:
- Marriage licenses and divorce decrees
- Traffic citations
- Arrests and court hearings
- Civil suits and judgments against you
- Civil court orders such as a FRO
It's also not possible to expunge or seal a restraining order from court files. Because a final restraining order remains in place permanently, unless one or both parties ask the court to remove it, you can't expunge it.
Can I Proactively Prevent a Restraining Order From Impacting my Professional Career?
You can do some things to minimize the impact a FRO application against you might have on your nursing career. You should comply with the FRO, inform yourself about the nursing licensing and renewal requirements, and ensure an experienced criminal defense attorney is representing you.
Follow the Terms of the Restraining Order
You must follow all the terms of any final or temporary restraining order against you. If you violate a restraining order, you could face arrest and conviction for criminal contempt of a court order. Aside from facing jail time, a conviction for violating a FRO will give you a criminal record that will appear on a criminal background check. You are much more likely to lose your New Jersey license as a Certified Nurse Practitioner with a criminal record.
Know the New Jersey Licensing and Reporting Requirements
In New Jersey, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioners must follow New Jersey's Board of Nursing Laws and Regulations. State Nursing Law doesn't specifically mention restraining orders or domestic violence allegations. However, the licensing board may disqualify someone from registration if:
- In New Jersey, any crime or disorderly persons offense:
- involving danger to the person, meaning those crimes and disorderly persons offenses set forth in [certain sections of NJ law];
- against the family, children or incompetents, meaning those crimes and disorderly persons offenses set forth in N.J.S.2C:24-1 et seq.; or
- involving theft as set forth in chapter 20 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes; or
- involving any controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog as set forth in chapter 35 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes except paragraph (4) of subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:35-10
- In any other state or jurisdiction, of conduct which, if committed in New Jersey, would constitute any of the crimes or disorderly persons offenses described in paragraph (1) of this subsection.
See N.J.S.A. § 45:11-24.3(a) (2013). While New Jersey law doesn't state that a restraining order will disqualify you if you have a conviction for violating a restraining order, it may, and you must report it.
Moreover, during the application and renewal process, you will need to submit a criminal history record check in New Jersey and every state where you've lived for the last ten years. See N.J.S.A. § 45:11-24.3 (2013). The licensing board allows FBI background checks in place of state criminal history record checks.
A restraining order isn't a criminal order, so it shouldn't appear in a criminal record check if you haven't faced a conviction for violating that order. However, if you have a restraining order against you, it's best to consult a New Jersey criminal defense attorney with experience handling restraining order actions to ensure your professional licensing isn't in danger.
Hire an Experienced Restraining Order Attorney to Defend You
The number one way to ensure that a FRO application doesn't negatively affect your nursing career is to hire a professional to guide you through the process. Your best chance of defeating a FRO is with an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney well-versed in defending FRO and domestic violence actions.
Hire a Skilled Restraining Order Attorney
As a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner facing a restraining order in New Jersey, you need an experienced attorney representing you as soon as possible. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced criminal defense attorney who has helped many professionals to defend restraining orders in New Jersey, and he can help you too. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-536-3686 or contact them online.