In New Jersey, a person who feels threatened or fears for their safety due to another person has the option to obtain a civil remedy against said person via “restraining order.” Restraining orders are legal under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.
If you've had a restraining order filed against you, it's crucial you tread lightly. Many defendants don't fully understand the new limitations placed on their life, and what it means to disregard the provisions of a restraining order. Violating a court order is a serious crime and is prosecuted seriously in New Jersey. At the Lento Law Firm, we're dedicated to protecting the rights of the accused. Contact us today for legal assistance.
For the purposes of this article, we'll highlight the basics of restraining orders, and why you need an attorney if you've had one filed against you.
What Is a Restraining Order?
A restraining order is enforced to restrict a defendant from contacting or coming within a certain distance of a plaintiff for a specified duration of time. The order is a preventative measure to protect plaintiffs from any ensuing acts of violence. Oftentimes, restraining orders not only call for no contact with the protected party, but they limit the defendant's interactions with the plaintiff's family, friends, acquaintances, roommates and/or other relevant persons. These orders also bar the defendant from going to the workplace or residence of the plaintiff, even if both parties share these areas. It doesn't matter if the defendant lives in the same residence as the plaintiff. If an order is imposed, he or she will be required to move out.
It's important to note that restraining orders are court documents and do not expire when the parties involved reconcile. These orders are definite for the specified duration of time designated in the order, regardless of fleeting circumstances. This means that even if a plaintiff and defendant willingly meet or interact while the order is in place, the defendant may still face criminal charges.
There are two types of restraining orders: temporary and final restraining orders.
Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs)
Temporary restraining orders, known as TROs, are ordered to temporarily protect a plaintiff of domestic violence from their abuser. TROs are filed as a result of a domestic violence complaint with the Domestic Violence Unit of the Family Division or the local police department. Either entity will contact a municipal court judge, who will hear the request and issue TRO either in person or over the phone.
When a TRO is ordered, law enforcement officers are tasked with serving the defendant with this order along with the date of the final hearing, which is usually scheduled within 10 days after the TRO has been issued. If the defendant has a firearm in their possession upon being served, it will be seized.
TROs are effective until a judge decides to either remove it, extend its duration, or replace it with a final restraining order.
Final Restraining Orders (FROs)
Final restraining orders, known as FROs, are a permanent version of TROs. Judges usually order a FRO at a final hearing.
In order for a FRO to be ordered, a judge must have evidence of the following:
- There was a domestic relationship between the plaintiff and defendant
- The defendant committed an act of domestic violence
- There is an urgent need for restraint in order to prevent further acts of domestic violence
As its name implies, a FRO has no time restriction. With its issuing, the defendant will be photographed, fingerprinted, fined, and stripped of their right to a firearm in New Jersey.
Once a temporary or final restraining order has been served on a defendant, each and every provision of the order must be followed. When these provisions aren't followed - whether it be due to misinformation or mere disregard - the police will be informed and the defendant may acquire criminal charges of criminal contempt.
According to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9, a person is guilty of criminal contempt if he or she purposely or knowingly disobeys a judicial order or protective order, or hinders, obstructs or impedes the effectuation of a judicial order or the exercise of jurisdiction over any person, thing or controversy by a court, administrative body or investigative entity.
Criminal contempt is a felony crime of the fourth degree. A conviction of this offense leads to a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 18 months in a state prison.
Do You Need an Attorney?
A restraining order can drastically and expeditiously change many aspects of a defendant's life. Because of these changes, defendants may find themselves violating the provisions of their order. This is why it is always recommended that defendants on the tail end of a restraining order obtain legal counsel. A knowledgeable and experienced legal professional can help defendants avoid criminal contempt charges and defend them if necessary.
It is also recommended that defendants retain an attorney before a FRO hearing because they are very similar to criminal trials. An attorney can help build a solid defense by helping to prepare you for the testimony you'll give and by analyzing the sufficiency of the evidence (or the lack thereof).
Contact a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If a restraining order has been filed against you in New Jersey, it's critical you seek legal representation. The good news is that you don't have to fight this legal battle on your own with the Lento Law Firm in your corner.
Mr. Lento is dedicated to providing you with a quality defense. He will provide you with options in this predicament, build a solid defense and work towards getting you out of a bad situation. Mr. Lento keeps flexible office hours and is willing to work around your schedule. To set up a consultation or for more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact us online or by phone at 888-535-3686.