Receiving the news that someone is seeking a restraining order against you is never easy. In some cases, it can be a gut punch to know that someone you care about is making accusations of domestic violence against you. But once you get past the initial shock, it's time to seek help because in New Jersey, having a restraining order against you can affect your career as a building inspector, placing your UCC license in jeopardy.
New Jersey Restraining Orders
Domestic violence is a serious matter in New Jersey and across the U.S. But in New Jersey, our legislature decided to tackle the problem head-on with the passage of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991. The statute works to protect victims of domestic violence from potential abusers and permits courts to issue restraining orders to do so. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35 (1991). In New Jersey, we have two types of domestic violence restraining orders – temporary (TRO) and final restraining orders (FRO).
Temporary Restraining Order
A temporary restraining order (TRO) is a temporary order from a state court preventing the respondent from contacting or approaching the TRO applicant. While this restraining order will only remain in place under the court holds a hearing on a final restraining order (FRO), the court may also issue an order removing the respondent from a shared home and directing the police to remove any firearms you may own.
Final Restraining Order
A final restraining order (FRO) is a permanent order that a judge may issue after a formal hearing with notice to all the parties. A FRO is often the permanent version of the TRO containing many of the same restrictions. The court will notify you of the date and time of the hearing, and you have the right to appear with an attorney to tell your side. Both parties may present evidence and testimony during the hearing and cross-examine witnesses. Because it is a formal hearing with long-lasting consequences, it's a good idea to have an attorney representing you.
A judge will only issue an FRO if:
- The parties have a qualifying domestic relationship, such as a marriage or other intimate relationship, share a child, live in the same home, or were once married or dating
- The judge believes you committed an act of domestic violence such as:
- Terroristic threats
- Sexual assault
- Criminal restraint
- Criminal trespass
- Cyber-harassment or stalking
- Criminal sexual contact
- Violating a domestic violence restraining order
- Any crime involving the risk of death or serious bodily injury
- The restraining order is needed urgently
In determining whether to issue the FRO, the judge will consider the following:
- The previous history of domestic violence between the plaintiff and defendant, including threats, harassment, and physical abuse
- The existence of immediate danger to person or property
- The financial circumstances of the plaintiff and defendant
- The best interests of the victim and any child
- In determining custody and parenting time, the protection of the victim's safety
- The existence of a verifiable order of protection from another jurisdiction
N.J. Stat. § 2C:25-29a (2013). The FRO will remain in place until one or both parties ask the court to remove or modify the order. The police will also place your name, photo, and fingerprints in New Jersey's state domestic violence database.
Building Inspection UCC Licensing in New Jersey
In New Jersey, you must meet certain educational or professional requirements to obtain a license as a professional building inspector. You must:
- Have seven years of experience in construction as a tradesman, building inspector, or as construction contractor in an area regulated by the building subcode
- Receive a bachelor's degree in architecture, engineering, or another major field of study significantly related to building construction and two years of experience in “construction, design, inspection or supervision in a field of construction currently regulated by the building subcode”
- Have an associate degree in code enforcement
- Have a current New Jersey license as an architect or engineer
See N.J. Admin. Code § 5:23-5.8 (1992). A candidate for a license as a building inspector Highrise-Hazardous Specialist (HHS) must also:
- Complete an approved educational program meeting New Jersey regulatory requirements for a building inspector unless they have a bachelor's degree in architecture, engineering, or a field significantly related to building construction
- Complete an exam
- Possess or be eligible for a building inspector Industrial and Commercial Specialist (ICS) license
While obtaining a license as a home inspector is less rigorous, applicants must still meet regulatory requirements, including:
- Completing 180 hours of approved study, including at least 40 hours of unpaid field-based inspections that are supervised by a licensed home inspector
- Performing at least 250 paid home inspections under the direct supervision of a licensed home inspector
- You must also obtain Errors and Omissions Liability insurance
As part of the application process for a building inspector license, you will have to undergo a full background check. If you have a restraining order against you, it will probably come up in your background check. If you have a criminal conviction for domestic violence related to that restraining order, the conviction can also prevent you from obtaining or renewing your professional license.
How Restraining Orders Can Affect Your UCC License
After completing hundreds of hours of educational and professional requirements, a restraining order can put your New Jersey license at risk. New Jersey's Uniform Construction Code and the Maintenance of Hotels and Multiple Dwellings Administrative Rules require that those who enforce the code be licensed and meet the educational and experience requirements. You must pass a criminal background check as part of the licensing process. While some background checks may not include New Jersey's domestic violence registry, some background checks, particularly those conducted by the state or the FBI, will include this registry. Moreover, if you have a criminal conviction related to domestic violence and the restraining order against you, that will appear on your criminal background check. This could prevent you from obtaining a building inspector license or renewing a license.
Hire an Experienced New Jersey Restraining Order Attorney
If you've received notice of an application for a restraining order against you, there can be lasting consequences if a court grants a final order. But in some situations, it may be possible to successfully prevent the applicant from obtaining a FRO against you. Your best chance for success and to protect your personal and professional reputation is with an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is well-versed in domestic violence and restraining order defense, and he can help. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 for a consultation.