A restraining order is a court-issued order that is designed to protect a victim of domestic violence. Restraining orders are meant to bar a party the order is filed against from contacting or communicating with the party who requested the order.
New Jersey recognizes two forms of restraining orders: a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a final restraining order (FRO).
A temporary restraining order is issued to give a victim temporary protection against alleged abuse. A judge must find adequate basis to believe domestic violence occurred to issue a TRO. Many are issued based solely on allegations. In some cases, a restraining order can result from a contentious relationship, and the restraining order may be unwarranted or attempted payback by a former or current partner.
Within 10 days of the issuance of a TRO, a hearing is conducted by a Superior Court Judge to determine if the order should become a final restraining order. Both parties may have legal representation during this hearing. To issue a TRO, the hearing must find that the domestic violence more than likely occurred. The alleged victim will testify about the incident and call witnesses. Evidence and exhibits may be entered into evidence. The defense can then cross-examine the victim and any witnesses and testify and present witnesses and evidence as well. The judge will make the final decision as to whether an FRO is warranted in the case.
During the FRO hearing, the judge will consider whether the acts of the alleged abuser constituted any of the following crimes:
Both the TRO and FRO are meant to protect the victim's safety without penalizing the alleged perpetrator of domestic violence or stalking. Despite this, the effects can seem punitive as the individual may lose his or her right to own a firearm or be arrested for a crime if the plaintiff alleges a restraining order violation.
Any violation of a restraining order, which means any contact at all, can result in arrest for a criminal offense. Violating either a TRO or FRO is considered a criminal offense that may result in jail time. If you have been accused of violating the terms of a restraining order, the police will arrest you, and you will remain in custody until bail is posted. Even if the restraining order was issued for unfounded reasons, violating an order is considered a serious offense.
Depending on the nature of the violation, you may be charged with a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor) or a fourth degree indictable crime (felony). A disorderly persons offense can have a penalty of up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, while a fourth degree crime can result in a prison sentence of up to 18 months and up to $10,000 in fines.
Mark A. Bernstein has more than 17 years of experience defending clients at restraining order hearings. If a restraining order has been filed against you, contact the Law Office of Mark A. Bernstein to protect your rights and fight to avoid the serious imposition of a final restraining order.