The New Jersey legislature enacted the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act in 1982 to protect victims of domestic violence. This law includes a provision that permits victims to obtain a restraining order, which limits the contact an alleged offender can have with a victim.
Numerous temporary and final restraining orders are issued in Cumberland County courts each year. If you find yourself on the receiving end of a restraining order, its issuance will undoubtedly have a profound effect on your life. At worst, defendants have found themselves unable to return to their own homes and have been kept from seeing their children.
New Jersey Restraining Orders
There are two different types of restraining orders in New Jersey: Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) and Final Restraining Orders (FROs) issued for both domestic violence and sexual assault. A judge will ultimately determine the validity and issuance of both.
If this is your first time being issued a restraining order, there's a high likelihood that you've been served a TRO. TRO hearings often occur ex parte, meaning only one party is present in court. The court will issue a TRO if they believe it is necessary to protect the life, health, or well-being of someone. When the police serve you with the TRO, they should also serve you with information and a date for the final restraining order hearing, in about ten days.
It's highly recommended that you cooperate throughout this process. Law enforcement will be ordered to seize your firearms, and if you live with the plaintiff (the victim), you may be asked to leave your home until the TRO expires. When it comes to vacating your home, it's important to note that your ownership of the residence won't have any bearing on your obligation to move out. Regardless, you will be forced to leave.
TROs last until a judge removes it, issues a further court order, or issues a FRO.
FROs are essentially a permanent replacement of TROs. In New Jersey, there is no time limit on FROs. Before this order is implemented, the final hearing will be held at the Cumberland County Courthouse. Both you and the plaintiff will be given an opportunity to provide testimony to consider the decision to issue (or refute issuing) a FRO. You will both also have the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses to support your side.
A judge will only issue the FRO if the plaintiff shows by a preponderance of the evidence that:
- You both have a qualifying domestic relationship, meaning you were intimate partners, household members, or have a child together.
- You committed an act of domestic violence, which can include assault, sexual assault, harassment, kidnapping, stalking, cyber harassment, or burglary.
- There is an urgent need for restraint to prevent further acts of violence.
The most common reason a court will deny a FRO is if it finds the defendant isn't a danger to the plaintiff. If the court grants the FRO, you will face a $500 fine, and the police will place your photo, information, and fingerprints in the New Jersey Domestic Violence Registry. This database is public and searchable. To say that you need a criminal defense attorney by your side during this hearing is an understatement. A final restraining order hearing will follow the rules of evidence and the court's rules of procedure. These rules make it difficult for someone without extensive litigation experience to represent themselves in court. Moreover, judges decide these hearings on the strength of either side's arguments and evidence. An attorney can build a solid defense that can significantly turn the tide of your legal circumstances.
Sexual Assault Restraining Orders
The New Jersey Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA) allows courts to issue civil protective orders to victims of sexual violence to protect them from their assaulter. A judge can issue an ex parte TRO under SASPA if they think it's needed for the victim's safety and well-being. The judge must also find that the defendant subjected the victim to non-consensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, lewdness, or an attempt at one of these.
Contents of a Restraining Order
A final domestic violence restraining order is usually more detailed than a TRO and may include a wide range of provisions, including:
- Preventing contact or harassment between the plaintiff and the defendant.
- Temporary or permanent custody of any children.
- Provide financial support, including rent, mortgages, and other financial obligations.
- Protection from violence.
- Preventing the defendant from owning or possessing firearms.
- Counseling or therapy.
Violating a Restraining Order
Perhaps you want to reconcile with the plaintiff or give a heartfelt apology for how things turned out. My best advice would be to wait it out. While a FRO is a civil matter, contacting a plaintiff despite a TRO or FRO is a criminal offense in Cumberland County, even if you attempt to do it through a third party. You'll be charged with criminal contempt charges that could potentially result in jail time and hefty fines. Violating a restraining order for a second time can result in 30 days in jail and more fines. You don't want to turn this civil matter into a criminal record.
Restraining Orders in Public Locations
Restraining orders often specify that the defendant can't be within a certain distance of the plaintiff or specific locations like the plaintiff's home, work, or school. If you are in a public location, the rules can get murky. However, it's best not to risk being accused of violating a restraining order. You should leave immediately. If you and the plaintiff attend the same school, things can get complicated. First, you should consult an attorney. You may need to let the school know if they need to adjust class schedules or on-campus living arrangements. But, you could also face repercussions at school, so it's best to consult your attorney as soon as possible.
Have You Been Issued a Restraining Order in Cumberland County? Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
The threat of domestic violence is a serious matter that shouldn't be undermined. Due to the nature of these cases, however, much of what transpired is up for speculation. Essentially, it's your word against the victim's, and in a situation with such high stakes, it's imperative you have reliable legal counsel to defend you.
Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm has extensive experience and knowledge in this legal area, as he's helped many people in this predicament navigate the legal process. He can do the same for you. For more information about how to successfully defend your restraining order, contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 for a consultation.