The state of New Jersey passed the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act to protect victims of domestic violence. The law details a provision that encourages victims to obtain a restraining order, which restricts the contact an alleged offender can have with a victim.
Numerous temporary and final restraining orders are issued in Mercer County courts every year. If you find yourself on the receiving end of a restraining order, its issuance will affect your life. At worst, defendants have found themselves unable to return to their own homes and have been kept from seeing their children.
New Jersey Restraining Orders
There are two types of restraining orders in New Jersey: Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) and Final Restraining Orders (FROs). A judge will ultimately decide the issuance of both.
If this is your first rodeo, there's a high likelihood that you've been issued a TRO. This means you've been served with an order and the date of the final hearing, which should be held sometime within the next few weeks.
It's recommended that you cooperate throughout this process. Law enforcement will be ordered to seize your firearms, and if you live with the plaintiff (the victim), you may be asked to leave your home until the TRO expires. When it comes to vacating your home, it's important to note that your ownership of the residence won't have any bearing on your obligation to move out. Regardless, you will be forced to leave.
TROs last until a judge issues a FRO, removes it, or issues a further court order. A TRO will typically last at least until the hearing for a Final Restraining Order (FRO), about ten days. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a).
FROs are a permanent replacement of TROs. In New Jersey, there is no time limit on FROs. Before these orders are implemented, what's known as a “final hearing” will be held at the Family Division of the Mercer County Superior Court. Both you and the victim will be given an opportunity to provide testimony to consider in the decision to issue (or refute issuing) a FRO.
When Will a Judge Enter a Final Restraining Order?
At the hearing for the final restraining order, both of you will have a chance to testify and to present evidence. If you are the defendant to a restraining order, to make the order final, the judge must find that:
- You and the alleged victim have a qualifying domestic relationship, meaning you are married, dating, members of the same household, or having children together.
- You committed an act of domestic violence. Acts of domestic violence include assault, harassment, terroristic threats, criminal restraint, sexual harassment, false imprisonment, stalking, kidnapping, burglary, criminal mischief, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal trespass, cyber harassment, criminal coercion, or contempt of a domestic violence order that is a crime, or any crime that involves the risk of death or serious bodily injury.
- There is an immediate need for restraints to prevent further instances of domestic violence.
What Does a Restraining Order Do?
A restraining order in New Jersey can prevent you from contacting or harassing someone and keep you from coming within a certain distance of the plaintiff. A restraining order can also include other details like:
- Provide for temporary custody of kids.
- Award financial support or payment of bills like mortgages, rent, and other financial obligations;
- Prevent you from contacting the plaintiff in person, by phone, or through electronic means. The order can also prevent you from contacting their family or place of work.
- Prevent you from owning or possessing firearms.
- Order counseling or therapy.
- Protect the defendant from future violence.
A restraining order can also remove you from a shared home, even if you pay the mortgage or rent or solely own the home.
To say that you should have a criminal defense attorney by your side during this hearing is an understatement. These hearings are decided by the strength of either side's arguments and evidence. An attorney can build a solid defense for you that can significantly turn the tide of this legal battle.
What Happens to Me if the Court Orders a Restraining Order?
Restraining orders can have serious consequences for you. When a court issues a final restraining order, the court will also fine you $500, and the police will fingerprint you, photograph you, and place you in a domestic violence registry. While a restraining order is a civil violation in New Jersey and won't typically appear on a criminal background check, the Domestic Violence Central Registry is available to the public and searchable. New Jersey law will also prevent you from owning or possessing firearms.
After a court issues a restraining order, you can lose custody or visitation for your children. The police can also remove you from your home if you share it with the plaintiff, even if you alone pay the rent or mortgage. If you're facing a hearing for a restraining order, you need an experienced attorney by your side.
When Does a Restraining Order Expire?
Temporary restraining orders are typically only good until the hearing for a final restraining order, about ten days. However, a final restraining order is permanent and does not expire until one of the parties asks the court to modify or lift the order.
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. While a restraining order is a civil violation, violating a restraining order is a criminal offense in Mercer County. You'll be charged with criminal contempt charges that could potentially result in jail time and hefty fines.
Have You Been Issued a Restraining Order in Mercer County? Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
The threat of domestic violence is a serious matter that shouldn't be undermined. Due to the nature of these cases, however, much of what transpired is up for speculation. Essentially, it's your word against the victim's, and in a situation with such high stakes, it's imperative you have reliable legal counsel to defend you.
Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm has extensive experience and knowledge in this legal area, as he's helped many people in this predicament navigate the legal process. He can do the same for you. For more information about how to successfully defend your restraining order, contact him today at (888) 535-3686 for a consultation.