What can someone who is being stalked or harassed by a stranger or an acquaintance in New Jersey do about it? Under current law, one thing they probably can't do is ask a judge to issue a restraining order because, at present, only victims who are or have been in a close relationship with a person who is allegedly stalking or threatening them can ask a court for a restraining order against that person; alternatively, the alleged victim must claim to have been sexually assaulted by the other person. The type of close relationships covered by current law include spouses, ex-spouses, present or former household members, and those presently or formerly in a dating relationship, among others.
Several New Jersey state senators have sponsored a bill that would change that. The bill would allow alleged victims to ask a judge to issue a restraining order against another person under certain circumstances regardless of the relationship between the alleged victim and the target of the order. It would apply to a wide range of offensive behavior, including assaults, threats, stalking, and harassment. Originally introduced in 2020, the bill was referred that year to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which appears to have taken no action on it. It was then reintroduced in 2022.
Restraining Orders Are Civil Matters, Not Criminal
Despite the fact that restraining orders can impose significant restrictions on the lives of those who receive them, they are civil matters, not criminal. This is important because the burden of proof in civil matters is lower than in criminal matters, so the person asking for the order need only convince the judge that it is more likely than not that the complained-of behavior happened. Because of the reduced burden of proof and because of the speed with which many restraining order hearings are held, if you are the target of a request for a restraining order, it can be difficult to quickly and effectively defend yourself. In these situations, being able to rely on the advice and experience of attorney Joseph D. Lento can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of the restraining order hearing.
Restraining Orders Can Significantly Affect Your Daily Life
Judges have the power to make the restraining order as broad as they believe it needs to be to protect the alleged victim. This means that a restraining order issued against you may prevent you from entering your own home, picking your children up from school or attending their athletic events, or being in or near places where the alleged victim works, studies, or worships, among other things. And while in many cases restraining orders serve a valuable purpose to help protect actual victims from violence or threats of violence, it is not unheard of for a spouse involved in a divorce or custody proceeding to attempt to secure an unjustified restraining order against the other spouse to use as leverage in negotiating a settlement.
You Need the Help of an Experienced Attorney
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his expert team at the Lento Law Firm have substantial experience representing people in restraining order proceedings in New Jersey. The combination of a lower burden of proof and the potential for significant restrictions on your life if a restraining order is issued against you (not to mention the stigma associated with it) makes it vital that you be represented by a knowledgeable and aggressive attorney such as Joseph D. Lento in these types of proceedings. Call Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 or through our contact form to learn more about how we can help.