If you're a professional optometrist in New Jersey, anything that threatens your licensing and good standing in the community is a serious matter. If you're facing a notice of a hearing for a restraining order against you, you're no doubt concerned about how you can defend yourself and your livelihood. You're right to be concerned. A restraining order, called a Temporary or Final Restraining Order in New Jersey, can affect your career and license as an optometrist. That's why it's essential that you consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Understanding New Jersey Restraining Orders
Violence in families is a serious problem in New Jersey. As a result, the state legislature enacted a 1982 law called the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. Part of this legislation created a legal process to allow victims of domestic violence to seek a court-ordered restraining order, keeping an assailant from approaching or contacting them. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a). New Jersey law includes both temporary and final restraining orders.
Temporary Restraining Orders
An applicant applies for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) with the court, and a judge will decide the matter in an ex parte hearing. This hearing takes place with only one party, and you don't have the right to appear as a defendant. If the judge issues the TRO, law enforcement will serve you with a copy and a notice of the final restraining order hearing. It will happen in about ten days, so you should contact an attorney immediately. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a).
Final Restraining Orders
A final hearing for a restraining order is a formal court proceeding. You can attend with an attorney, cross-examine witnesses, and present your evidence and witnesses. If granted, a FRO can remain in place permanently in New Jersey. The court will not remove it unless one or both parties ask to remove or modify the order. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-29(d). A final order will typically prevent you from approaching or contacting the applicant. After a court enters a FRO against you, the New Jersey State Police will enter your photo, fingerprints, and information in the state's domestic violence database. You will also face a $500 fine and be unable to purchase or possess firearms.
Will a New Jersey Restraining Order Appear in Background Checks?
A final restraining order may appear in some background checks, depending on how thorough the check is and the types of records included.
Criminal Background Searches
The New Jersey State Police maintain a domestic violence registry which they use to locate and enforce restraining orders. In theory, a FRO isn't a criminal conviction and shouldn't appear in a criminal background check. However, it can depend on the company or agency performing the check and the specific databases used to perform the search.
Civil Court Case Files Searches
Many online or generic “background” searches also include civil court and criminal court case records, which include a wider range of records, including:
- Marriages licenses
- Divorce decrees
- Traffic citations or tickets
- Arrests and court hearings, even if you weren't convicted
- Civil suits or monetary judgments against you
- Civil actions or orders like restraining orders
Unfortunately, it isn't always easy to remove a FRO record from the public eye or “seal” or “expunge” it. Because these orders remain in place indefinitely in New Jersey, you can't hide the record from public view.
How Can I Prevent a Restraining Order From Impacting my Optometry License?
If you'd like to proactively work to prevent a FRO from impacting your career as an optometrist in New Jersey, there are several actions you can take, including complying with the terms of any temporary or permanent order, knowing the reporting and licensing requirements of the New Jersey State Board of Optometrists, and hiring an experienced attorney to represent you in your FRO action.
Follow the Terms of the Restraining Order
The most important thing you can do to prevent a FRO from impacting your career is to follow the terms of the court order carefully. Failure to do so could result in your arrest and conviction for criminal contempt. A criminal conviction will result in a record that will appear on criminal background checks.
Know and Follow the Optometry Board's Reporting Requirements
Optometrists licensed in New Jersey must self-report misconduct, but New Jersey's optometry laws and regulations do not specifically mention restraining orders or domestic violence. New Jersey law also requires that “[t]he clerk of every court wherein a person licensed to practice optometry in this state shall be convicted of a crime shall make a report thereof in writing to the board of the conviction.” N.J.S.A. § 45:12-16 (2013). While the clerk of court won't report restraining orders, which are civil actions, to the Board, it will issue a report if you are convicted of violating a restraining order. A criminal conviction for domestic violence or for violating a restraining order may result in a license suspension or revocation.
As part of the initial application process, optometrists must provide a criminal background history. While a final, civil restraining order may not result in the revocation or suspension of your optometry license in New Jersey, you should discuss the specifics of your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney well versed in handling New Jersey restraining orders for licensed professionals.
Hire an Experienced Restraining Order Attorney to Defend You
The best way to ensure that a restraining order application doesn't negatively impact your career is to ensure that no court ever enters a final order against you. Your best chance for successfully defeating a FRO is with a skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney with experience defending restraining orders and domestic violence allegations.
You Need a Skilled Restraining Order Attorney by Your Side
If you're a licensed optometrist and you're facing a hearing for a final restraining order in New Jersey, you need experienced legal guidance right away. The Lento Law Firm team and attorney Joseph D. Lento have years of experience defending New Jersians in FRO actions across the state. They can help you too. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888-536-3686 or contact them online.