In New Jersey, receiving a restraining order may have a significant impact on your life. The order not only forbids you from communicating with your spouse or partner, but it also has the potential to affect custody and visitation rights, force you to leave your home, and even potentially disrupt your career. If you are a licensed psychologist in New Jersey, a restraining order could potentially trigger an investigation by the New Jersey State Board of Psychological Examiners. They could decide to take disciplinary action against you, up to and including revoking your license to practice.
The good news is there are steps you can take proactively to avoid this kind of outcome with the help of a good New Jersey defense attorney. Joseph D. Lento is a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer with extensive experience in helping clients navigate the complexities of restraining orders. If you're a licensed psychologist dealing with a restraining order, here's what you need to know to safeguard your career.
The Restraining Order Process in New Jersey
In New Jersey, restraining orders are designed to provide court-ordered protection to victims of domestic violence and/or abuse within intimate or familial relationships. The order prohibits the accused (defendant) from having contact with the accused (plaintiff) or from coming within a certain distance. In most cases, the judge will first issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) which goes into effect immediately, pending a hearing to be scheduled within ten days. At the hearing, both sides will present their case, and you'll be allowed to bring an attorney who presents evidence to contest the TRO. If the court believes you, the judge will either rescind the TRO or allow it to expire. If the judge sides with the victim, he/she will issue a final restraining order (FRO) which stays in effect indefinitely until a judge vacates it at the request of either party.
If you violate either a TRO or an FRO, you could be charged with criminal contempt--a felony-level offense in New Jersey. If convicted, you could face fines up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to 18 months.
Will a Restraining Order Appear in Background Checks?
It depends on the type of background check. Restraining orders don't show up in criminal background checks because a restraining order is a civil action, not a criminal one. However, if your restraining order is finalized, a record will appear in the state's domestic violence database and in court records, so these may show up in certain broader types of checks. Additionally, if you are convicted of violating a restraining order, that conviction will show up in your criminal record.
How Can a Restraining Order Threaten Your Psychology License?
If you have a restraining order against you, it could potentially raise red flags with the State Board of Psychological Examiners. While a restraining order is not proof of wrongdoing, it does suggest that you are unworthy of the public's trust because it says the court considers you a threat to another person. The board holds its licensees to high standards of professional and ethical conduct; a restraining order casts doubt on your ability to uphold these standards. This could trigger an investigation that could lead to disciplinary action, up to and including suspending or revoking your license.
The board could be alerted to your restraining order in a number of ways, including the following:
- A patient, colleague, or someone else who is aware of the restraining order could file a complaint with the board
- If you violate a restraining order and are convicted of a crime, the board may be notified
- The restraining order could show up in various sorts of background checks or court records investigations
How to Safeguard Your Psychology License if You're Served with a Restraining Order
You can't control whether someone petitions the court for a restraining order against you—but you do have options for minimizing the risks to your career. An experienced attorney can help you with any/all of the following actions in response to a restraining order:
- Challenging the Temporary Restraining Order. Your court hearing is your opportunity to have your side heard before the judge. Successfully refuting the validity of a TRO may keep it from being finalized, which means it won't show up in any public records.
- Appealing the Final Restraining Order. Once the FRO is issued, you have 45 days to file an appeal. If you can show it was issued inappropriately or in violation of due process, you may be able to have it overturned and possibly expunged from court records.
- Having the FRO vacated. A final restraining order can only be rescinded by a judge, who only considers the matter at the request of the plaintiff or the defendant. If you can convince a judge that the FRO is no longer necessary and/or the plaintiff no longer considers you a threat, you may be able to get the FRO vacated.
- Responding directly to any licensing board inquiries. If the Board of Psychological Examiners does become aware of the restraining order and raises issues about it, a good license defense attorney can often minimize the damage by negotiating directly with the board. An excellent attorney may provide evidence to show why the restraining order will have no effect on your ability to do your job or maintain public trust. This is frequently enough to prevent your license from being revoked.
If you're a licensed psychologist and are served with a restraining order in New Jersey, your license could be at risk. Don't take chances with your career—take action now to safeguard your license. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.