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.
Thousands of temporary and final restraining orders are issued in Salem County courts each year. If you find yourself on the receiving end of a restraining order, its issuance will affect your life in many ways. In the worst scenarios, defendants have found themselves unable to return to their own homes, losing custody of their children, and even prohibited 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). Both are available for domestic violence and sexual assault victims. 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. A judge can issue a TRO ex parte, or with only one party present. After that, the police will serve you with the TRO and the date of a final hearing, which should be conducted sometime within the next few weeks.
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 Salem 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. The judge will conduct the FRO hearing according to the court's rules and the rules of evidence. This means that it's essential that you have a skilled criminal defense attorney representing you in court. Moreover, the court decides 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
A New Jersey court can also issue a restraining order under the New Jersey Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA). A court can issue a restraining order under SASPA if the judge finds that:
- It's necessary to protect the safety and well-being of the victim.
- The plaintiff was a victim of non-consensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, lewdness, or an attempt to do so.
The court will typically hold a FRO hearing under SASPA within ten days of issuing a TRO.
What Do Salem Restraining Orders Contain?
Aside from preventing a defendant from contacting or harassing a plaintiff, a FRO can also contain several other measures, including:
- Providing for temporary custody of children;
- Providing for child or spousal support, rent, or other financial obligations;
- Prohibiting the defendant from contacting the plaintiff, the plaintiff's family, or the plaintiff's place of work;
- Prohibiting the defendant from owning or possessing firearms;
- Counseling or therapy; and
- Protect a plaintiff from future violence.
For SASPA restraining orders, the order can prevent:
- Future acts of sexual violence,
- The defendant from contacting the plaintiff,
- Online or in-person harassment,
- The defendant from entering places where the plaintiff frequents, like a school or workplace.
A domestic violence restraining order is permanent in New Jersey; it does not expire. The FRO will remain in place until one of the parties asks the court to modify or remove the order. After a judge issues the FRO, you have 45 days to appeal the decision. However, your appeal must have grounds to overturn the decision, meaning the judge made a mistake of fact or law when issuing the final restraining order.
Long-term Impact of a Restraining Order
Aside from the more immediate restrictions on your life and liberty, a restraining order can impact your life-long term. While a restraining order won't appear in a criminal background check, the New Jersey domestic violence database is public and searchable. If your employer or a future employer performs a more substantive background search, your restraining order may turn up.
Moreover, if you must carry a gun or hold a security clearance for your job, a restraining order can interfere with your career, particularly if you are in the military or law enforcement. If you hold a security clearance, your security clearance questionnaire will ask about domestic violence and restraining orders. It is a federal crime to lie on these forms.
Restraining orders can also prohibit members of the military and those serving in law enforcement from carrying or owning a firearm. The Federal Gun Control Act does have an exception for military service members who must carry a weapon. However, if your restraining order specifically states that you can't possess a firearm, you cannot carry a weapon, and the Federal Gun Control Act loophole won't apply. Restraining orders in New Jersey almost always expressly prohibit the defendant from possessing a firearm.
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. Contacting a plaintiff despite the issuance of a TRO or FRO is a criminal offense in Salem County. You'll be charged with criminal contempt charges that could potentially result in jail time and hefty fines. A second violation of a restraining order will result in a mandator 30-day jail sentence.
Have You Been Issued a Restraining Order in Salem 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 your 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.