Your professional license is the key to your career as a licensed social worker in New Jersey. You've invested years of effort and time into establishing a reputation and earning the public's confidence, so anything that jeopardizes that trust might have severe ramifications for your livelihood. This includes being served with a restraining order.
Restraining orders in the State of New Jersey can be highly disruptive to your life. You may be prohibited from seeing or contacting your spouse or domestic partner, and you could lose access to your children as a result. You may also have to leave your home and change your daily routines. But even down the line, after the initial damage is done, a restraining order could trigger an investigation by the New Jersey State Board of Social Work Examiners, possibly resulting in the loss of your license--even if you were never actually charged with a crime.
The good news is that there are ways to reduce the impact of a restraining order on your social worker's license--IF you are proactive in your approach. New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience helping defendants minimize the damage caused by restraining orders. Let's examine the potential consequences of a restraining order on your social worker's licensure and ways to prevent it from affecting your career.
Restraining Orders in New Jersey
A restraining order is a civil order that protects victims of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse by banning the accused (defendant) from contact with the accuser (plaintiff). To obtain a restraining order, the victim must file a petition with the court and provide evidence of abuse or harassment. If the judge finds sufficient evidence, he or she will issue a temporary restraining order TRO, which will be in effect until a hearing can be held. At the hearing, both the victim and the accused have an opportunity to present their case. If the judge finds that the victim has shown clear and convincing evidence of abuse, he or she will issue a final restraining order (FRO), which lasts indefinitely until a judge rescinds it on the request of either the plaintiff or the defendant. Violation of a restraining order is a felony-level offense, punishable by fines up to $10,000 and up to 18 months imprisonment.
Will a Restraining Order Show Up on Your Criminal Record?
No, it won't. Since a restraining order is a civil matter, not a criminal one, restraining orders don't appear on criminal background checks. However, if you violate the restraining order in any way and are convicted of criminal contempt, this conviction will generate a criminal record which could further damage your standing with the state licensing board. It's also important to note that if your restraining order is finalized (FRO), your photo and fingerprints will appear in the state's domestic violence registry, which may show up in certain types of background checks.
How a Restraining Order Can Endanger Your New Jersey Social Worker's License
If you're a licensed social worker and a restraining order is issued against you, it is important to understand the potential consequences that could arise. Even if you're never charged with a crime, the existence of a restraining order could trigger an investigation by your state's licensing board because the order itself suggests that the court deems you a threat to someone's safety. This could result in possible disciplinary action--up to and including revoking your social worker's license. Some ways that the board could become aware of the restraining order include:
- A formal complaint by a colleague, patient, or another individual mentioning that there is a restraining order against you
- Being convicted of violating a restraining order (which creates a criminal record and may cause the board to be notified)
- A routine check of court records or the domestic violence database could disclose the existence of the restraining order
Steps to Protect Your Social Worker's License Against a Restraining Order
While a restraining order could indeed jeopardize your professional license, there are steps you can take proactively to minimize the risks. Your attorney may advise you to do any or all of the following:
- Challenge the Temporary Restraining Order at the hearing. If you can convince the judge not to convert the TRO into an FRO, it will stay out of public records, making it less likely to cause issues with the licensing board.
- Appeal the FRO. You have 45 days to appeal your FRO. If you can show why the restraining order was improperly granted, you may be able to have it reversed.
- Have the FRO vacated. FROs stay in effect until they are vacated by a judge at the request of either party. If you can present a compelling argument as to why the FRO was unnecessary or is no longer needed, or if the plaintiff has a change of heart, you may be able to get the FRO lifted.
- Respond to the board's concerns directly. What happens if the board decides to investigate you? The best strategy is to handle the situation with the board directly with the help of a knowledgeable license defense attorney. A competent attorney can produce evidence to show why the restraining order will have no impact on your ability to do your job or keep public confidence. This is often enough to prevent your social worker's license from being revoked or suspended in most situations.
If you have a restraining order against you, the best way to minimize the chances of having it jeopardize your license is to be proactive in your response with the help of an experienced attorney. Joseph D. Lento has experience with both restraining orders and professional license defense, and he has helped many New Jersey defendants to minimize the damage of a restraining order on their life and career. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to see how we can help.