Facing a restraining order is indeed a stressful situation and the entry of a final restraining order (FRO) in NJ has real and permanent consequences. A restraining order by definition will stem from a domestic violence situation, and will result in restricted communication and contact with the complainant (victim). It will also often effect permitted contact with children or other family members. Having to defend against a restraining order, often called a protective order in other states, is never easy to go through. It is made more difficult because of the emotional toll of the failed relationship coupled with the legal consequences. If you are the subject of a restraining order, it is critical that you seek the guidance from one of the skilled restraining order defense attorneys at Villani & DeLuca. P.C. Never ignore the notice of hearing, as if you do the temporary restraining order (TRO) will be converted into final restraining order (FRO) in your absence. You must fight to defend against the entry of the final order. Read on to learn more about the two types of restraining orders recognized in New Jersey and how together, we can build a strong defense for your case.
What Determines An Act of Domestic Violence
To qualify as a victim of domestic violence under 2C:25-17, “the prevention of domestic violence act” (PDVA), a person must be a spouse or ex-spouse, involved or previously involved in a romantic or sexual relationship, a family member, co-habitated with the defendant, or have a child with the defendant. To determine if an act qualifies as domestic violence, an alleged abuser must have committed one of the following crimes under title N.J.S.A. 2C:
- Harassment under 2C:33-4,
- Terroristic Threats under 2C:12-3,
- Stalking under 2C:12-10,
- Assault under 2C:12-1,
- Criminal Mischief under 2C:17-3,
- Sexual Assault under 2C:14-2,
- Lewdness under 2C:14-4,
- Trespass under 2C:18-3,
- Burglary under 2C:18-2.
Temporary restraining order
With all restraining orders, one party is designated as the defendant and the other as the complainant (victim). The initial filing is called a temporary restraining order (TRO). Temporary restraining orders are issued in order to provide temporary protection from alleged domestic abuse. A temporary restraining order is very powerful and provides the complainant with complete protection against contact and communication of any nature from the defendant. Contact by the defendant after being served with a temporary restraining order is punishable by a criminal charge of contempt for violation of the restraining order which can result in jail. If a TRO is filed, all weapons owned by the Defendant will be confiscated by police only to be returned at a later time after a hearing on that issue.
Final restraining order
The TRO is valid until a full hearing, which will be decided by a Superior Court Judge. The hearing is a trial in Superior Court where the Judge will take testimony first from the Complainant and any of the complainant's witnesses. After the testimony of each witness the defense is permitted to cross examine. The defense then has an opportunity to allow the defendant to testify and call witnesses. At the conclusion of the hearing the Judge will decide whether the complainant (victim) has proven their case, and if so, a final restraining order will be entered. The Judge must find by a preponderance of the evidence that an act of domestic violence occurred and upon this finding, the judge must determine whether there is a need for a final restraining order to protect the victim. If a FRO is entered the defendant may be precluded from contact with the victim; conditions will be set on contact with children; conditions will be set on contact with family members and friends of the victim; support can be established; fines will be imposed; counseling may be imposed; and the Judge can set any other conditions that the judge feels appropriate under the facts of the case. In New Jersey a FRO is permanent. In many other states is only lasts for a set period of years but in NJ it can last forever. If an FRO is imposed, the Defendant will be registered with the NJ Domestic Violence Registry. A person with a FRO will forfeit any guns owned and give up any firearms ID cards and the right to own firearms.
In New Jersey, domestic violence is based upon actions that could constitute crimes or disorderly persons offenses but the actual restraining order hearing is a family court matter. It's treated very seriously. But what if you were accused wrongfully? If served with a TRO, remain calm and comply with the order while you await your hearing. Abide by the rules to avoid any contact with the victim. Victim contact will result in criminal charges.
New Jersey is one of just a few of states that has a “forever” aspect to final restraining orders. In most states, restraining orders extend for a designated period of time (for example one year or 18 months). In New Jersey, forever means just that forever, unless modified by the court by a superseding court order. Any violation of this court-issued protective order qualifies as a criminal charge and could result in arrest and jail time.
Building a Strong Defense Against a Restraining Order
If you have you are facing a restraining order, contact Villani & DeLuca P.C. today; seeking immediate legal advice and representation will greatly increase your chances of a favorable outcome in your case. Our attorneys have over 100 years of combined legal experience. We proudly serve New Jersey residents throughout Monmouth County and Ocean County. Call us today at 732-709-7757 for a free, confidential consultation. Also check out our Frequently Asked Questions page for some answers to common NJ domestic violence questions.