Some of the most loving relationships can go awry and become toxic. When that happens, some people take steps to protect themselves by obtaining a protective order. For the most part, these orders are issued in response to claims of domestic violence and threatening behavior.
If you've had a protective order issued against you, it's important you take it seriously. Violating any of the conditions of this order is a crime. Many people may be under the impression that their order only limits in-person communication and interactions, while it bans all contact. Some may make a mistake due to another misunderstanding. Regardless, a small action that you think is appropriate could lead to a criminal record and compromise your freedom.
It's important you understand the gravity of this crime and the effect that it could have on your life if you ever are convicted. Here's an overview of protective orders in New Jersey and what happens when you violate one.
What is a Protective Order?
A protective order is a court order that prohibits a person from doing particular acts to the individual who obtained the order. This could include a ban on contacting the victim, or keeping within a certain distance, or another condition that the judge feels is necessary to keep a party safe. New Jersey recognizes two types of restraining orders:
- A temporary protective order (TRO): A TRO is ordered for a duration of time that will eventually elapse.
- A final protective order (FRO): An FRO is an order that doesn't ever expire. A TRO can become a FRO if a judge feels like the situation is serious enough.
Contrary to popular belief, protective orders may be granted outside of romantic relationships. They may include family members, roommates, and more. Also, some orders may order to stay away from the victim's friends, family, and peers.
A protective order can be designed to include any form of contact. This contact extends to virtual communication. Getting in touch with a victim through social media platforms or through text message counts as contact. Even getting someone else to relay a message for you can lead to a criminal conviction for violating a protective order.
What Constitutes the Crime of Violating a Protective Order?
Violating a protective order is considered criminal contempt in New Jersey. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9, a person can be found guilty of criminal contempt if he or she “purposefully or knowingly disobeys a judicial order or hinders, obstructs or impedes the effectuation of a judicial order or the exercise of jurisdiction over any person, thing or controversy by a Court, administrative body or investigative entity.”
What are the Legal Penalties for Violating a Protective Order?
Many people underestimate the consequences of violating a protective order. And when emotions run high it may seem worth it to contact the victim regardless of an order. But a seemingly small mistake can snowball into a legal crisis.
If you are a party to a protective order and are accused of violating a protective order, you can be charged with either a disorderly persons offense or a fourth-degree crime. The severity of the charges against you will depend on the circumstances of your case.
If the actions that caused you to violate the order constitute an indictable crime, your contempt charge will be classified as a crime of the fourth degree. A fourth-degree crime is pretty severe, as it warrants penalties of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
If your violating act constitutes a petty disorderly persons offenses, like harassment, your contempt charge will be classified as a disorderly persons offense. A disorderly persons offense carries penalties of up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Potential Defenses for the Violation of a Protective Order
You lacked knowledge of the protective order. If a defendant didn't know there was a protective order in place, then he or she can't purposefully or knowingly violate the order.
You lacked the intention to violate. Even if you had knowledge of the protective order and its conditions, the defendant still can't be convicted of violating the order if his or her violating action wasn't exactly intentional.
You were falsely accused. If, with the help of an attorney, it can be proven that the alleged victim was lying when he or she reported the defendant contacted him or her in violation of the protective order.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
As you can see, the violation of a protective order can be a serious crime in the state of New Jersey. A conviction of this crime can land you behind bars, and severely restrict your lifestyle once your time has been served. Not to mention the damage a conviction can have on your professional and personal life. To avoid a conviction and the legal and collateral ramifications that come with one, you need the help of a seasoned criminal defense attorney.
If you're looking for quality legal representation, the Lento Law Firm is the ideal firm for you. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience and credentials to defend and counsel people who've acquired stalking charges. He will explain your pending charges, build a solid defense and work towards getting your charges reduced or dropped. For more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact the Lento Law Firm either online or by phone at 888-535-3686.