Cases Involving Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs)
Typically, a TRO means you may be removed from your home and barred from seeing your family. All that is required is for the other party to allege you have committed an act of domestic violence against them.
If a judge finds that the alleged victim appears to be in danger of continued domestic violence, he or she will order a TRO. Unfortunately, and (in many cases unfairly), you usually do not even know that the alleged victim is applying for a temporary restraining order until the police show up at your house to have you removed or arrested. Any firearms or other weapons in your possession are also seized and an entirely separate proceeding is required to get those weapons back.
Cases Involving Final Restraining Orders
A final restraining order hearing must occur within 10 days after you are issued a TRO.
Many people make the mistake of consenting to the entry of a Final Restraining Order, often because they don’t want to have any future contact with the person alleging abuse. But it’s important to avoid an FRO whenever possible.
If a final restraining order is entered against you, it can have far-reaching, potentially life-altering consequences, such as:
- Subjected to fingerprinting
- Included in a central registry of persons with domestic violence restraining orders
- Contempt offense for violation of the restraining order
- Barred from possessing a firearm or a firearms purchaser’s identification card
The FRO hearing is an important time for our attorneys to challenge the allegations against you. The allegations may be misleading, overblown, or altogether false.
New Jersey Restraining Order FAQs
Here are some common questions about restraining order laws.
What Are the Consequences of Having a Restraining Order Filed Against You?
Restraining orders, whether temporary or final, are civil in nature and do not carry the same kind of penalties involved in criminal cases like jail time. However, the consequences of having a restraining order against you can be potentially far worse than jail.
If a Final Restraining Order is Ordered against you, you will be fingerprinted and placed on a domestic violence registry, and you will be permanently prevented from having any contact with the alleged victims.
Among other things, the Judge can also order that you be prevented from returning home, pay child support, pay spousal support, alter or suspended child custody, prevent you from ever legally possessing a firearm, and fine you.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Defend Me?
The reality is that the stakes are high, and it takes real experience and skill to successfully defend a defendant in an FRO hearing. Additionally, in every county in the State of New Jersey, local non-profit organizations offer free attorneys to plaintiffs who qualify.
Defendants who go it alone often find themselves trying to defend themselves at a trial where their opponent has an attorney and they do not. It is an absolute recipe for disaster.
What Are Criminal Contempt Charges?
Once either a temporary or final restraining order has been served on a defendant, all the provisions of the order must be strictly followed. Unfortunately, there are many instances in which the restrictions in a restraining order are violated by a defendant (even inadvertently) and the police are called.
If the police receive a report of a violation of a restraining order they will go out and arrest the defendant for criminal contempt, as outlined in N.J.S.A. 2C: 29-9(b). Contempt is a disorderly person offense if the violation of the order does not constitute a separate criminal offense but violates one of the provisions of the order; for example, the defendant simply sent a non-threatening text message that violated the no contact provision of the restraining order.
Irrespective of the level of the offense, all criminal contempt charges are heard in Family Court in the County where the violation is alleged to have transpired. Unlike restraining order proceedings, these proceedings are criminal in nature and are prosecuted by the county prosecutor’s office.
Defending Charges for Criminal Contempt
We are aware of the common proof issues in criminal contempt cases, knowing when to assert for example deminimus infraction, lack of notice, or lack of identity defenses. Where the proofs are not necessarily in our clients’ favor, we have nevertheless been able to secure favorable results by providing additional corroborated character and background information on the client. This is designed to humanize the defendant and move the prosecutor to consider the entire picture in every case, not just the nature of the charges.