Domestic violence is a serious problem across the U.S. New Jersey is no exception. Still, our legislators took action to protect victims of family violence by passing the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991. This statute helps protect victims of domestic violence from their potential abusers by allowing courts to issue restraining orders. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35 (1991). The courts may issue one of two types of domestic violence restraining orders: temporary (TRO) and final restraining orders (FRO). Unfortunately, having a court issue a restraining order against you or a domestic violence conviction can prevent you from holding many professional licenses in New Jersey. If you receive notice of an application for a restraining order against you, you should immediately consult an experienced restraining order attorney.
Temporary Restraining Orders
A temporary restraining order (TRO) is an order from a court that temporarily prevents you from contacting or approaching the applicant. A TRO will typically only remain in place for about ten business days until the court holds a final hearing. However, the court may also choose to remove you from a shared home and confiscate any weapons you may own. You will not receive notice of the hearing for the TRO, and you do not have the right to attend.
Final Restraining Orders
After a hearing, the judge may issue a final restraining order (FRO) after notice to all parties. A FRO is a permanent order that a judge may issue containing many of the same restrictions as a TRO. You'll have the right to attend the FRO hearing with counsel, present evidence, and cross-examine witnesses.
During the FRO hearing, the judge will only issue the order if:
- You and the applicant have a qualifying domestic relationship. Qualifying relationships include a current or former marriage or intimate relationship, sharing a child, or living in the same household.
- The judge believes you committed an act of domestic violence. Acts of domestic violence in New Jersey go far beyond simple assault and also include harassment, assault, sexual assault, criminal restraint, coercion, stalking, cyber-harassment, kidnapping, terroristic threats, violating a domestic violence restraining order, and more.
- The judge believes the need for a restraining order is urgent to prevent further acts of domestic violence.
Before issuing the final order, the judge will look at 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). Once the judge issues an FRO, the police will place your name, photograph, and fingerprints in New Jersey's domestic violence registry.
Obtaining a Commercial Driver's License in New Jersey
In New Jersey, to get a CDL, applicants must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be a New Jersey resident
- Be a U.S. citizen or have lawful permanent resident status
- Have at least 20/40 vision in each eye with or without corrective lenses
- Be able to recognize red, yellow, and green colors
- Be physically fit, complete the CDL holder self-certification document, and submit a valid “medical examiner's certificate”
- Hold a basic New Jersey Class D driver's license
The application process for a CDL isn't easy either. You must:
- Study and learn the CDL manual
- Get an exam test receipt by completing the CDL application, making an appointment for a CDL permit, and bringing six forms of ID, including your social security card, proof of address, and proof of legal presence in the U.S. The application is $125, and it is non-refundable.
- Take the CDL knowledge test, which may require a separate appointment. If you're seeking a HAZMAT endorsement, you must complete additional requirements.
- Take the Entry Level Driver Training from a provider listed in the state's training registry
- Take a CDL skills test after a 14-day waiting period
To renew your CDL, you must make an appointment to appear in person with your six forms of ID and complete your CDL Holder self-certificate and medical examiner's certificate.
How a Restraining Order Can Affect Your CDL
Unfortunately, a criminal record from a domestic violence charge or a restraining order against you may affect your CDL. According to New Jersey's CDL handbook:
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the US Department of Transportation require background checks on commercial drivers who are certified to transport hazardous materials. The background checks include a review of criminal, immigration, and FBI records. If the driver is found to represent a security threat, TSA will notify the person and NJ will deny issuance of an endorsement.
While a restraining order alone may not be enough to withhold a CDL or HAZMAT endorsement, it could if the TSA determines that you are a security risk. According to the TSA:
TSA may also determine that an applicant is not eligible based on analyses of records related to violations of transportation security regulatory requirements. These violations include security-related offenses at an airport, on board an aircraft (including assault, threat, intimidation, or interference with flight crew, physical or sexual assault or threat of physical or sexual assault of any individual on an aircraft), at a maritime port, in connection with air cargo, and other regulatory violations.
An applicant will also be disqualified if he or she has had a court, board, commission, or other government authority determine that he/she, as a result of mental illness, poses a danger to himself/herself or to others, or that he/she lacks the capacity to conduct or manage his/her own affairs, or if he/she has been found not competent to stand trial in a criminal case or found not guilty by reason of insanity by a court; or if he/she has been involuntarily committed to an inpatient facility for mental health or psychiatric reasons.
As a result, if you have a restraining order pending against you in New Jersey or a court has already issued one against you, you should consult an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney immediately. In some cases, a defense attorney well-versed in handling restraining order matters may be able to prevent a court from issuing an order against you or have one dissolved.
Hire an Experienced New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
If you receive notice from a court that a restraining order is pending against you, the consequences can be serious, and you need an attorney immediately. The best time to retain a criminal defense lawyer is before a restraining order hearing, but it may be possible to get an order lifted after it is in place. Retaining skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney, well-versed in handling restraining order matters, Joseph D. Lento can help. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 for a consultation.