This is the second article in a two-part series on restraining order violations and online conduct. You can find the first article, defining restraining orders and their prohibitions, here. This article will discuss the consequences of a protective order transgression and how online behaviors might trigger a violation.
What is a Restraining Order Violation?
A restraining order prohibits a person from contacting the person who obtained the order. Judges can design protective orders to stop any contact, including text messages, direct or indirect contact online, and social media posts.
Contacting someone when the court has issued a restraining order against you is a crime known as criminal contempt. Criminal contempt occurs when someone willingly or knowingly disobeys a court order or otherwise obstructing, impeding, or hindering an order. The penalties for violating a restraining order can be severe. So if the court has ordered you to stay away from someone, you should avoid having contact with them at all costs.
What Are the Penalties for a Restraining Order Violation?
New Jersey classifies restraining order violations as disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors) or fourth-degree crimes (felonies). If your violating act constitutes a petty disorderly persons or disorderly person offense like harassment or lewdness, then the court will charge your violation as a disorderly persons offense. If your violating conduct constitutes an indictable crime such as assault or kidnapping, then the matter will be charged as a fourth-degree crime. A fourth-degree crime carries a fine of up to $25,000 and a period of incarceration of up to 18 months. A disorderly persons offense carries a penalty of up to $1000 and 6 months in jail.
What About Cyber-Harassment?
A person can be found guilty of a protective order violation for the crime of cyber harassment too. Cyber harassment occurs if, while online or on a social networking site, a person:
- threatens to inflict injury or physical harm to a victim or the victim's property
- knowingly sends, posts, comments, requests, suggests, or proposes any lewd, indecent, or obscene material to or about a victim with the intent to emotionally harm or place a victim in fear of physical or emotional harm
- threatens to commit any crime against the victim or the victim's property
The state can charge someone with cyber harassment as a standalone crime or as a domestic violence crime. In either instance, the potential penalties are severe. So if the court orders you to refrain from contacting someone, you should delete and block them from all of your social media platforms and refrain from discussing them online with anyone.
Getting Legal Help
Defending yourself against a restraining order violation is a stressful experience, regardless of whether the alleged contact occurred online or offline. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has years of experience fighting for the rights of the accused in New Jersey and he and his team at the Lento Law Firm can help you with your case too. Call (888) 535-3686 now to speak directly with Attorney Joseph D. Lento about your matter today.