Restraining Orders and State Lines: What You Need to Know

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Nov 05, 2022 | 0 Comments

Sometimes moving to a new home in an entirely different city or even another state is exactly the fresh start that you need. While moving away won't solve your problems, it can give you the optimism and confidence you need to turn your behavior around and begin a new chapter of your life.

But what happens when you have a restraining order (RO) that an ex-spouse or -partner has taken out against you? Will that follow you to the new state, or will the plaintiff in this civil matter need to petition for a new RO? And what could happen if you violate that restraining order in a manner that crosses state lines? Let's find out.

First, What Is A Restraining Order?

A restraining order (RO), also known as a protective order or order of protection, is a court-issued document intended to prevent communication between parties when one party is alleging domestic violence against the other. Essentially, it restricts the defendant from contacting the person who took out the RO by any means: phone, in-person, text, social media, messaging app, even snail mail. It also prohibits the use of a third-party intermediary—a mutual friend, for example, or a family member—to communicate with the plaintiff.

Depending on the specific circumstances of the RO, the defendant may also be asked to move out of a shared home, relinquish any firearms, and provide financial support for the other party.

A restraining order is a civil matter, but violating one can result in criminal charges and punishment.

State-to-State Reciprocity

In 1994, federal law established something called “state-to-state reciprocity,” meaning that any restraining order taken out in one state is enforceable in all other states. If your ex has taken out an RO against you in New Jersey but then moves or travels to another state, the stipulations of the order remain in effect. The jurisdiction where the prohibited contact takes place doesn't matter.

The U.S. Constitution includes a section called the “Full Faith and Credit Clause.” This specifies that, unless there are unusual circumstances to consider, every state is obliged to uphold and enforce judgments made in other states.

Thanks to this reciprocity, an out-of-state restraining order remains valid if the alleged victim is traveling to or temporarily visiting another state. It also applies when the individual relocates, although, in this situation, they must contact local authorities and file paperwork to register the order in that jurisdiction. Otherwise, law enforcement agencies in the new state would have no idea the RO existed.

What Happens If the Parties Already Live In Different States?

Things get a little trickier in cases where the people involved already live in different states. Let's say your ex-boyfriend lives in New York while you live in New Jersey. He may have trouble getting New York to issue a protective order against you because it doesn't have jurisdictional authority over a non-NY resident.

That said, there are exceptions in some circumstances. For example, if the accused individual regularly travels to the state where the plaintiff lives or if they commit an abusive act while there, then it may be possible to request and receive a valid RO in that jurisdiction.

Compliance with a restraining order is crucial. The penalties for violating it, deliberately or unwittingly, can be steep since the violation constitutes a criminal act. Repeated attempts to contact the accuser could result in jail time and other repercussions.

Need Help with Restraining Order Issues?

Restraining orders can be tricky; there are a lot of variables involved, even without the complication of different jurisdictions. It's all too easy to violate them accidentally, perhaps, especially if you feel the RO was unfounded to begin with.

Every situation is different; if you are named in a restraining order from another state, you should seek help from an attorney who has extensive experience in this area of law. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his expert team at the Lento Law Firm can use their expertise and experience to help you avoid undue punishment.

Get started by calling 888-535-3686 or clicking here to schedule a consultation.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in New Jersey and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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