Federal law allows people to seek a restraining order, often called a protection order, from a civil or criminal court. A restraining order is issued for someone's safety after a “complaint, petition, or motion” is filed. They are often issued to prevent potential or further acts of violence, intimidation, stalking, etc. They prevent someone from being near or contacting the petitioner, as well as other possible conditions.
When a petitioner files a complaint requesting an order of protection, the court may issue a temporary restraining order. The respondent is served with the complaint according to local rules notifying them of a hearing that will be held within 10 days.
Grounds for Restraining Orders
In New Jersey, restraining orders may be issued to those who are victims of domestic violence or those who have been subject to attempts or acts of sexual assault. Domestic violence is a broad term that involves offenses such as assault, stalking, or kidnapping that occur between those having some past or current intimate relationship. Examples of sexual assault include non-consensual sexual contact, penetration, and lewdness.
Hearing Procedure (2C:25-29)
During a hearing, the judge may hear testimony and review evidence to determine if an act of domestic violence or type of sexual assault occurred and whether an order of protection is appropriate. The standard for proving the allegations is by the preponderance of the evidence. If this is proven, the judge will impose a final or permanent order with many potential conditions such as:
- Prohibiting the respondent from visiting the petitioner's residence, place of employment, school, etc.
- Prohibiting the respondent from attempting to contact or communicate with the petitioner directly or through intermediaries
- If applicable, conditions may apply regarding minor children, such as custody and parenting time
- Imposing financial conditions to compensate the victim for losses or that a party is responsible for paying a mortgage, rent, etc.
- The respondent may be prohibited from owning or possessing a deadly weapon
- The respondent may be required to submit to a psychological evaluation or counseling
Duration of Final Protection Orders
Final restraining orders do not have a specified end date. The order will remain in effect unless a party requests that the judge reevaluate and consider changes or termination of the order.
Violations of an Order
While a restraining order is typically a civil charge, violating a restraining order is a criminal offense. Those who violate the provisions of a protection order are subject to criminal charges for contempt. A member of law enforcement may arrest an individual when they have probable cause to believe that a violation has occurred. The defendant is generally charged with a fourth-degree offense, which is punishable by up to 18 months of incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000. Those who a convicted of a second offense may face a minimum of 30 days in jail.
How Does a Restraining Order Work in Public Places?
A restraining order will typically indicate that the defendant can't be within a certain distance of the plaintiff or list specific locations that the defendant can't go. Restricted locations might include the plaintiff's home, work, school, or schools and activities attended by your shared children. If you are in a public location, the rules get murkier, but it's best just to leave. Keep in mind that if a plaintiff is trying to make it look like you're violating a restraining order, these shenanigans won't amuse the court. A restraining order is a protective measure, not a weapon against the defendant.
How Does a Restraining Order Work at School?
New Jersey schools must comply with civil and criminal orders from the courts. Schools also have a responsibility to keep their students safe while in school. If you are subject to a restraining order and attend the same school as the plaintiff, the school may try to restrict your classes, on-campus living arrangements, and where you can be on the campus. Keep in mind that high school and college students still have due process rights under New Jersey law, federal Title IX law, and school policies. If you face a restraining order and attend the same school as the plaintiff, you should contact an attorney right away.
Can a Restraining Order Affect Employment?
A New Jersey restraining order might affect your employment. A restraining order is a civil matter and typically won't appear on a criminal background check. However, once a judge puts a final restraining order in place, your fingerprints, photograph, and information will be in the Domestic Violence Central Registry. This database is public and searchable. If your employer performs background checks beyond the standard check, your employer may find the restraining order. Keep in mind that New Jersey is an at-will employment state, meaning your employer doesn't need a reason to let you go. Unless you have additional employment protections, your employer may fire you if they wish to do so.
If you need to carry a gun for work, you'll need to discuss your restraining order with your employer. The law prohibits you from owning or possessing a firearm while a restraining order is in place. However, the Federal Gun Control Act does have an exception for those serving in the military. If you need to use a firearm during military duties, you may possess a firearm only at that time. See 18 U.S.C. § 930(d)(2). There are two situations where this exception may not apply:
- If your restraining order specifically prohibits you from owning or possessing a firearm, you can't possess one for work, even for military duties.
- If your commanding officer decides that you should not possess a firearm.
If you have a security clearance or serve in the military or as New Jersey law enforcement, your employer will find out about the restraining order.
Criminal Defense Lawyer in New Jersey
Joseph D. Lento is an attorney that provides effective legal representation for clients in cases such as those involving domestic violence, sexual assault, and contempt of court. He closely assesses the allegations and evidence as part of a comprehensive defense strategy. For a case evaluation, contact the office today at (888) 535-3686.