Domestic violence is a serious issue for families in New Jersey and across the U.S. In 1982, our state legislature passed the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) to combat the issue. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. Under the PDVA, domestic violence and sexual assault victims can obtain court orders to protect themselves from abusers. A restraining order from the court can legally prohibit someone from coming near another person or prohibit them from contacting them.
While restraining orders serve a useful purpose in protecting vulnerable people, courts often issue temporary restraining orders without much direct evidence of domestic violence. If you fail to defend yourself from a protective order, it can also affect your career as an athletic trainer.
The Domestic Violence Restraining Order Process
The restraining order process is the same in courts across New Jersey. The petitioner will first apply to obtain a temporary restraining order (TRO). After that, the court will set a hearing date for a final order.
1. Temporary Restraining Orders
When the petitioner fills out the initial application for a TRO, they can request that the court immediately issue a TRO. If so, the court will hold an ex parte hearing with only the petitioner and their lawyer. The court won't notify you of this hearing, and you don't have the right to attend or defend yourself. If the judge determines that a TRO is needed to protect the petitioner, they will issue an order and set a hearing to determine whether to issue a final restraining order (FRO). The TRO remains in place until the hearing for a final restraining order, typically about ten days. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a).
If the court enters a TRO, the police will serve you with a copy of the temporary order and the notice of the hearing for the final order. If you live with the petitioner, the police may remove you from the home while the restraining order is in place. If you own any firearms, the police may also confiscate them. It is possible that you won't be able to see your children while the temporary order is in place.
2. Final Restraining Orders
On the date of the final hearing, both you and the petitioner will have the chance to present your story to the court. You will have the chance to present evidence and witnesses, challenge the petitioner's evidence, and cross-examine witnesses. At a final hearing, to issue a FRO, the court must find:
- You and the petitioner have a qualified domestic relationship. A qualified domestic relationship includes current or former partners, a dating relationship, family members, members of the same household, or parties with children together.
- You committed an act of domestic violence against the petitioner. Acts of domestic violence aren't limited to assault. They may also include harassment, threats, stalking, sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary, criminal mischief, false imprisonment, lewdness, criminal trespass, robbery, criminal coercion, cyber harassment, contempt of a domestic violence order that is a crime or “disorderly persons offense,” or any other crime that involving a risk of serious bodily injury.
- The FRO is needed to prevent future domestic violence.
The final restraining order will typically be more detailed than the TRO. The order may keep you from approaching, contacting, or harassing the petitioner. The order may also:
- Order that you provide temporary custody and financial support for any children
- Provide financial support for any joint financial obligations like rent or a mortgage
- Prevent you from possessing or buying firearms
- Order you to attend counseling or therapy
The police will fingerprint and photograph you for the state domestic violence database, and the court will order you to pay a $500 fine.
Sexual Assault Restraining Orders
The New Jersey Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA) also allows courts to issue civil protective orders to protect victims of sexual violence. A judge may issue a SASPA TRO in an ex parte hearing if they believe it's necessary to protect the victim. The judge must also believe the petitioner is the victim of non-consensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, lewdness, or an attempt to do so. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:14-13, et seq. As with a domestic violence restraining order, a hearing for the final order will typically happen within ten business days.
Neither SASPA nor domestic violence restraining orders are criminal matters. They are civil orders from the court, and they won't appear on your criminal record. However, they can restrict your movements and custody and visitation of children. In some cases, these civil orders may appear in some background checks, potentially affecting your career as an athletic trainer in New Jersey.
How Can a Restraining Order Affect My Career as an Athletic Trainer
In New Jersey, athletic trainers are licensed professionals falling under the regulatory jurisdiction of the State Board of Medical Examiners. The Board protects the public by:
- Ensuring that all athletic trainers meet the educational requirements for licensing
- Investigating and prosecuting Athletic Trainers who break New Jersey's consumer protection laws
- Requiring that all Athletic Trainers be licensed by New Jersey and renew their licenses every two years
As part of the application for your license, you must undergo a criminal background check. A restraining order in New Jersey is a civil rather than criminal matter. However, if you have a domestic violence or sexual assault arrest related to the restraining order, your arrest record may appear on a background check even with no conviction. Moreover, if you violate a restraining order, it could result in criminal charges or a conviction for criminal contempt of a court order. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9.
If you're concerned about what may appear on your background check during the athletic trainer licensing process, it's a good idea to run a background check yourself and consult an experienced New Jersey restraining order attorney. A skilled attorney with experience handling criminal matters, restraining orders, and expungements in New Jersey can give you all your options.
Hire an Experienced Restraining Order Attorney
If you're facing a restraining order petition against you, you need an experienced New Jersey criminal lawyer by your side. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his skilled team at the Lento Law Firm have been helping New Jersey professionals through the restraining order process for years. Find out how he can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or schedule an appointment online.