A restraining order is a type of civil court order that mandates one individual modify his or her behavior in relation to another person. Often this order prohibits a person from interacting with, contacting, or coming within a certain distance of that person.
A restraining order can seriously impact your life: you may lose the right to bear arms, you may be prohibited from seeing your children. If you have a temporary restraining order out against you, having an experienced lawyer on your side is non-negotiable. If you're facing a restraining order in Hackensack or anywhere in the Bergen County area, contact the Lento Law Firm today.
Bergen County Restraining Orders
The following types of restraining orders can be put into place in Bergen County.
Domestic Violence Restraining Order
A domestic violence restraining order is a civil order that applies to those who are current or former members of a household or family. This includes intimate partners, current or former spouses, those who are dating or dated in the past, household members, or those who have a child in common.
Sexual Assault Restraining Order
Restraining orders also may be issued when an allegation of sexual assault has been made. The New Jersey Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA) allows Bergen County courts to issue civil protective orders to victims of sexual violence to protect them from their assaulter. A judge can issue a TRO under SASPA with only the plaintiff present. The judge must believe that the TRO is necessary for the victim's safety and well-being. The judge must also find that the defendant subjected the victim to non-consensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, lewdness, or an attempt at one of these. The restraining order will prevent the person accused from contacting the person who made the allegation.
Temporary vs. Final Restraining Orders
A temporary restraining order is issued by a judge, often in emergencies. They apply during the interim period, which typically is no more than 10 days, at which time a hearing is conducted to evaluate the allegations. The subject of the allegations will be served notice of a temporary restraining order, which will contain provisions (conditions). A temporary restraining order can be brought against you even if you are not present. One consequence of a temporary restraining order may be removal from your home.
Bergen County Restraining Order Hearings
After a temporary restraining order has been filed, the next step will be to proceed to the restraining order hearing.
The Bergen County Justice Center is located at:
Restraining orders may be issued regardless of whether there are criminal charges filed. During a restraining order hearing, the parties may present evidence, and witness testimony may be heard. The petitioner must prove their allegations by a preponderance of the evidence. When proven, the court may issue a final (permanent) restraining order.
At the FRO hearing, a judge will only issue the FRO if the plaintiff shows by a preponderance of the evidence that:
- There is a qualifying domestic relationship, meaning you were intimate partners, married, dating, household members, or have a child together.
- You committed an act of domestic violence. In New Jersey, domestic violence can include crimes such as assault, sexual assault, harassment, kidnapping, stalking, cyber harassment, or burglary. Many other crimes that have the risk or threat of injury to the plaintiff also qualify as domestic violence.
- A restraining order is needed urgently to prevent further acts of violence.
If a court declines to put a FRO in place, the most common reason is that the judge doesn't believe the defendant is a danger to the plaintiff. Having an attorney by your side during the hearing can greatly increase your chances of successfully defending a FRO. If the court grants the FRO, you will face a $500 fine, and the police will place your photo, information, and fingerprints in the New Jersey Domestic Violence Registry. This database is public and searchable.
Provisions of a Bergen County Restraining Order
The courts may use their discretion when creating the conditions within a restraining order. They typically prohibit the defendant from contacting or communicating with the petitioner. Each restraining order is different, but these orders might include provisions such as:
- Modifying custody, visitation, and/or financial support of minor children
- A prohibition from owning or possessing firearms or other weapons
A defendant who “purposely or knowingly violates any provision” of a TRO or FRO is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree if the conduct that violates the restraining order is also a crime or “disorderly persons offense” under N.J.S.A.2C:29-9(b). In all other cases, a defendant that knowingly violates an order is guilty of a “disorderly persons offense.”
Violating a Restraining Order
If you're thinking about contacting the plaintiff despite a TRO or FRO, it'd be in your best interest to reconsider. Violating a restraining order is a criminal offense in Bergen County. The police will charge you with criminal contempt. A conviction for criminal contempt could potentially result in jail time and hefty fines. A second violation of a restraining order can result in 30 days in jail.
How do restraining orders work in public places?
Restraining orders will often indicate that the defendant cannot be within a certain distance of the plaintiff or at specific locations like the plaintiff's home, work, or school. If you are in a public location, the rules can be murky. But it's best if the defendant to the protective order leaves. If the plaintiff to a TRO or FRO tries to make it look like the defendant is violating a restraining order, the courts will not be amused. A restraining order is a protective measure and is not a weapon.
Bergen County Restraining Order Representation
Have you been served with a temporary restraining order in Bergen County? It is important to promptly seek assistance. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm will represent you in a restraining order hearing and defend any related criminal charges you may be facing. Contact the office at (888) 535-3686 for a case evaluation.