If you're served with a notice that a court issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against you or a notice to appear at a hearing for a Final Restraining Order (FRO) hearing, it can be frightening and stressful. In addition to any personal issues you have with the family member, partner, or spouse bringing the action against you, you may also face legal repercussions, impact to your career as a certified public accountant (CPA), and embarrassment. But you are right to be concerned. While a FRO isn't a criminal action, it may still impact your career and professional licensing. That's why it's important to consult an attorney immediately after you're served with the notice.
Understanding New Jersey Orders
In New Jersey, domestic violence can be a serious, heartrending issue. As a result, our state lawmakers enacted a 1982 law known as the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. Part of the legislation created a process allowing victims of family violence to seek a legal order protecting them from abuse and keeping an assailant from approaching them or contacting them. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a).
Temporary Restraining Orders
A potential victim applies for a temporary order with the court in their county courthouse to begin the restraining order process. As part of this process, the applicant will have an ex parte hearing with a judge where the judge will ask questions about the alleged abuse and determine whether to grant a temporary order. An ex parte hearing means that the court will not notify you about the hearing and will not permit you to attend. If the court grants the TRO, they will also set a hearing date for a FRO hearing in about ten days. The temporary order will remain in place during that time and may prevent you from contacting or approaching the applicant. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a).
Final Restraining Orders
A hearing for a final restraining order is a formal court proceeding, and you and your attorney can attend, present witnesses and evidence, and cross-examine any witnesses of the applicant. If the judge grants a FRO, it can remain in place until the parties ask the court to remove or modify the order. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-29(d). You will also receive a $500 fine and be prohibited from possessing or purchasing a firearm. The FRO may restrict you from contacting or approaching the applicant, restrict your ability to remain in a shared home, and even prevent you from seeing or visiting your shared children. After a court enters a FRO against you, the police will submit your photo, fingerprints, and information to New Jersey's state domestic violence database.
Will a Restraining Order Appear in Background Checks?
A FRO in New Jersey may show up in some background checks, including searches of civil court case files or a detailed search of New Jersey's Domestic Violence Database.
Criminal Background Searches
While a FRO order is not a criminal conviction, New Jersey does have a searchable state-wide database of all domestic violence-related restraining orders. Whether or not your restraining order will appear in a background check will depend in large part on the specific databases that each company or agency uses to perform the search. For example, a criminal record search via PeopleSearch online may not return your FRO, but a more generic “background check” may.
Civil Court Case Files Searches
While a restraining order doesn't give you a criminal record, many online background searches today also include searches of civil court and criminal court case files, which may reveal items such as:
- Marriages and divorces
- Traffic tickets
- Arrests or court hearings that don't result in a conviction
- Civil court orders like a FRO
- Legal judgments or civil suits against you
Moreover, a more thorough search of an individual's background may find a restraining order through New Jersey's Domestic Violence Central Registry.
You also can't easily seal or expunge a restraining order from civil court files. In New Jersey, a restraining order will remain in place until one or both of the parties ask a court to remove it, meaning it will always appear in civil court files.
How Can I Proactively Prevent a Restraining Order From Impacting my Professional Career?
There are several actions you can take to prevent a restraining order from affecting your professional career as a CPA, including carefully complying with the terms of the FRO, knowing the New Jersey Board of Accountancy licensing and reporting requirements, and hiring an experienced attorney to defend you in your FRO hearing.
Follow the Terms of the FRO
It's essential that you strictly comply with all the terms the court includes in either a temporary or final restraining order against you. If you fail to do so, even inadvertently, the police may arrest you for criminal contempt of a court order. If convicted, you will have a criminal record, and it will appear on a criminal background check.
Know and Follow the Licensing Board's Reporting Requirements
New Jersey's CPAs must follow the State Board of Accountancy rules. The Board's rules do not specifically mention restraining orders or domestic violence allegations. However, the rules require that all licensed CPAs “upon conviction of any crime, shall notify the Board of Accountancy of such conviction in writing within 30 days.” While this doesn't include a civil restraining order, if convicted of violating a FRO in New Jersey, you must report this to the board or risk losing your license. See N.J.S.A. § 45:1-21(h).
It's important to remember that out-of-state restraining orders may also affect your licensing as a CPA in New Jersey if it appears on your criminal record. While a final restraining order, a civil order, may not result in the revocation or suspension of your CPA license, the best way to ensure a FRO won't impact your career is to discuss the specifics of your case with a criminal defense attorney well versed in handling restraining order matters in New Jersey.
Hire an Experienced Restraining Order Attorney to Defend You
The best way to ensure that a restraining order action against you won't negatively impact your career, job prospects, or professional licensing is to ensure that a court never imposes a final FRO order against you. Your best chances of avoiding a final restraining order are with a skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney experienced in defending FRO and domestic violence actions.
You Need a Skilled FRO Attorney by Your Side
If you're facing a hearing for a final restraining order in New Jersey and a licensed CPA, you need experienced legal guidance immediately. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a skilled criminal defense attorney with years of experience defending New Jersey residents in domestic violence and restraining order actions. He can help you too. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-536-3686 or contact them online.