A restraining order, also known as a protection order, is issued by a court for the safety of someone victimized by acts such as domestic violence or sexual assault. These orders may prohibit a respondent from making contact with or being near the petitioner.
Filing a Complaint of Domestic Violence (2C:25-28)
New Jersey law does not specifically have a statutory offense of domestic violence. Charges are based on the actual alleged offense, which may include assault, kidnapping, burglary, harassment, etc. A filing for a restraining order may be made in a court within the jurisdiction where either of the parties lives or where the alleged incident occurred. Those who are, in some way, incapable of filing themselves may have another person do so on their behalf.
How Do Restraining Orders Work in New Jersey?
Once victims file a domestic violence complaint, they can also ask for a temporary restraining order (TRO) at a local police station or the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court at the Camden County courthouse. If filing a complaint locally, the alleged victim must file it at the police station where they live, where the defendant lives, or where the violence occurred. If they make the complaint locally, the police will often contact a municipal court judge to obtain a TRO in person or over the phone. Otherwise, the victim can complete the paperwork for a TRO at the Family Part at the courthouse. A judge will then meet with them to determine if they qualify for the TRO.
After a court enters a TRO, the police will serve the defendant with a copy of the TRO and the date of the final restraining order hearing, which typically happens within ten days. The police may confiscate all of the defendant's firearms. If the defendant lives in the same home with the alleged victim, the defendant has to leave while the TRO is in force, even if the defendant owns the home.
At the final restraining order hearing, both parties will have the chance to tell their side of the story and present evidence and witnesses. A FRO, if entered, is usually more detailed than a TRO and is permanent. The order will remain in effect unless one of the parties petitions the court to lift or modify the FRO.
Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO)
Restraining orders are initially ordered temporarily as a hearing is scheduled. Sometimes a temporary ex parte restraining order is issued in circumstances involving an emergency. Counties will typically have a judge assigned for handling restraining orders after-hours. Filing for an order of protection is a process that runs independently from any arrest or criminal charges that may relate to these matters.
A hearing will be held roughly ten days after a TRO is issued. A final (permanent) restraining order may be issued at the hearing once all parties are present when testimony and evidence may be presented. Final restraining orders do not have a specified termination date. If a party wishes to modify or terminate an order, they must file a request with the judge for consideration.
A TRO may contain an order to search and seize any deadly weapon that a respondent has. Those who are subject to a restraining order are generally prohibited from purchasing or otherwise acquiring firearms and such.
Protection Orders Not Involving Domestic Violence (2C:14-14)
An order of protection may also be filed by those who are victims of actions or attempts to commit sexual contact, sexual penetration, lewdness, or other non-consensual acts under the New Jersey Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA). Other actions, such as stalking and cyber-harassment, are also applicable. Parents or guardians may act as petitioners on behalf of victims under the age of 18. The SASPA allows courts to issue a civil protective order to protect victims of sexual violence from their assaulter. A judge can issue an ex parte TRO under SASPA if they believe it's necessary to protect the victim's safety and well-being. A hearing for a final order typically takes place within ten days.
For SASPA restraining orders, the order can:
- Prevent future acts of sexual violence;
- Prevent stalking;
- Prevent the defendant from contacting the plaintiff;
- Prevent online or in-person harassment;
- Prevent the defendant from entering places where the plaintiff might be, like work, school, or home.
Final Restraining Orders
A final restraining order is typically more detailed than a TRO and may contain provisions for:
- Preventing contact or harassment between the defendant and plaintiff;
- Protection from violence;
- Temporary custody of children and their support;
- Financial support, including rent, mortgages, car payments, or other financial obligations;
- Counseling or therapy;
- Preventing the defendant from owning or possessing firearms.
The FRO may also have specific limitations on places the defendant can't be, such as the plaintiff's home, work, or school. The FRO may also limit the defendant from being within a certain distance of the plaintiff in public places.
If you are a defendant to a restraining order and find yourself in the same public location as the plaintiff, it's best just to leave. If the police have probable cause to believe that you violated the restraining order, they will arrest you. Violating a restraining order is a criminal offense.
Domestic Violence Restraining Orders in Camden County
In Camden County, there is a Domestic Violence Unit that investigates potential incidents of domestic violence and disorderly person offenses that involve restraining order violations. They maintain staff 24 hours a day to support law enforcement countywide. Also, this department handles weapon forfeitures associated with restraining orders.
Contempt; Law Enforcement Procedures (2C:25-31)
Violating a restraining order in Camden County is a criminal offense and considered criminal contempt of a court order. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. If the police have probable cause that the defendant violated a restraining order, the law mandates an arrest. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-31. The violation can be as small as a text or email to the victim.
The police may charge you with criminal contempt of court if you violate the conditions of an order of protection. This charge is usually a fourth-degree offense, which in New Jersey is punishable by up to 18 months of imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine. A second violation will result in a mandatory 30 days in jail. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30.
Defense Attorney for Criminal Cases in Camden County
Have you been arrested for allegedly committing acts such as domestic violence, sexual assault, or violating a restraining order? Joseph D. Lento is an experienced lawyer that provides aggressive legal representation for clients in the Camden County courts. You are encouraged to contact the office today for a case evaluation at (888) 535-3686.