Being served with a restraining order in New Jersey can upend your life in many ways. Not only does the order ban you from contact with your significant other, but it can also affect your custody rights, force you to leave your home, and much more. Unfortunately, if you're a licensed professional engineer, you may face yet another peril. If the New Jersey State Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors becomes aware of the restraining order against you, it could potentially trigger an investigation that could jeopardize your license.
You've no doubt invested a lot of time and effort into building your career as a professional engineer--but all that effort could be upended if a restraining order puts your license into question. Thankfully, you're not without options. With the help of an experienced New Jersey defense attorney, you can take steps now to protect your license from any fallout arising from a restraining order. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many defendants successfully challenge restraining orders and minimize the damage they can cause. Let's look at the potential consequences of a restraining order on your engineering credentials and how to prevent it from affecting your career.
How Restraining Orders Work in New Jersey
A restraining order is a civil court order that affords protection for victims of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse. The order bans the accused (defendant) from having contact with the accuser (plaintiff), along with possible other restrictions. To obtain a restraining order, the plaintiff must file a petition with the court and allege that he or she is a victim of domestic violence or sexual abuse. If the court finds that there is a likelihood of future harm, it will issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) which will remain in effect until a hearing can be held (typically within ten days). If you're served with a TRO, it is effective immediately, and violating it is a crime. At the hearing, you will have an opportunity to appear with an attorney to challenge the TRO. If the court finds that the plaintiff is likely to suffer further harm, it will issue a final restraining order (FRO), which stays in effect indefinitely. Violation of a restraining order in any way may result in criminal charges punishable by fines up to $10,000 and up to 18 months imprisonment.
Will a Restraining Order Show Up in Background Checks?
Possibly, depending on the type of background check. Because a restraining order is a civil matter rather than a criminal one, it won't appear on criminal background checks unless you have a conviction for violating it. However, once the restraining order becomes an FRO, your photo and fingerprints will be registered in the state's domestic violence database, where it may appear on certain broader types of background checks.
How Can a Restraining Order Jeopardize Your Professional Engineering License?
If the State Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors becomes aware of the restraining order against you, it could potentially raise some red flags and prompt an investigation into your license. Even if you were never actually charged with a crime, the very fact that a court deemed you to be a threat to someone else could call your competency into question. Some ways that the board could become aware of the restraining order include:
- A formal complaint by a client or another individual could include mention of the restraining order.
- If you violate a restraining order and are convicted of a crime, the board may be notified.
- The restraining order could show up in certain types of background checks or investigation of court records.
If the board's investigation leads them to believe the restraining order casts doubt on your ability to do your job or to maintain public trust, they could impose disciplinary actions against your license, up to and including revoking it completely.
Ways to Safeguard Your Engineering License
While a restraining order may jeopardize your professional license, there are things you can do to minimize the dangers, especially with the help of an experienced attorney. These may include:
- Successfully contesting the Temporary Restraining Order. If you appear at the restraining order hearing and present clear evidence that the TRO is unnecessary, you may convince the judge not to finalize it--effectively keeping it out of public records and your name out of the domestic violence database.
- Appealing the FRO. If the FRO was issued due to a mistake in fact or a mistake in law, you may be able to overturn the FRO on appeal.
- Having the FRO vacated. Final restraining orders don't expire in New Jersey. They stay in effect until either the plaintiff or defendant demonstrates to a judge that the FRO is no longer needed and the judge vacates it. If you can do so successfully, the FRO can be rescinded.
- Responding directly to the licensing board. If your restraining order ultimately raises concerns with the board, your best option is to respond to the board directly with the help of a knowledgeable license defense attorney. A skilled attorney can provide evidence to show why the restraining order will have no impact on your ability to perform your job or maintain public confidence. This is often enough to avert having your license revoked.
You've worked too hard building your engineering career to have it unfairly jeopardized by a restraining order. Take action now to protect your license. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today to discuss your situation.