Restraining Orders in New Jersey

What does a restraining order do?

A restraining order is meant to protect victims of domestic violence by making it hard for the alleged abuser to further victimize their partner. The restraining order process in New Jersey follows a two-tiered approach:

  1. A Temporary Restraining Order is issued when allegations of abuse are made and lasts until a court has ruled on the need for protection.
  2. A Final Restraining Order is entered by a court after a hearing to consider the allegations of abuse. It requires a lower standard of evidence than a criminal conviction and lasts indefinitely.

Once filed, a restraining order prevents one party from legally contacting the other. Additional restrictions can be entered as the presiding judge deems necessary. There are few statutory limits on the extent of restraining orders, and the strictness or leniency of the order depends on the judge issuing it and the circumstances of the abuse. No contact could mean no phone-calls, or just no threats or harassment. It could limit contact with minor children. A judge could have firearms seized, place restrictions on where the subject of the order can travel, and even have the accused forcibly removed from jointly owned property. Whether you are seeking or defending against a restraining order, it is advisable to retain a skilled lawyer who can help you secure the most favorable outcome.

When can someone file a restraining order?

Whenever someone alleges domestic violence, they may request a temporary restraining order from their local police department or the county court.  These orders are almost always issued upon request, and a court date is set to investigate the allegations. For the restraining order to become finalized these conditions must be met:

Domestic Violence

The court must find evidence that domestic abuse occurred. Specifically, one of these crimes must have been committed:

  • Harassment
  • Assault
  • Criminal Mischief
  • Terroristic Threats
  • Sexual Assault
  • Lewdness
  • Stalking
  • Criminal Trespass
  • Burglary

A Pattern of Abuse

If one of the aforementioned abuses can be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, the restraining order will likely become permanent. The judge will then look for a pattern of abuse, the severity of which will inform the final restraining order. There are no official guidelines, and a particularly harsh judge could throw the book at someone for a few angry texts. In general, any kind of physical violence will result in the harshest possible penalties.

A Reasonable Fear for a Victim’s Safety

Ultimately, the goal of a restraining order is to protect the victim, not punish the abuser. This means the safety of the victims is paramount in deciding the conditions of a restraining order. The justification for most sanctions against the accused is victim’s safety. Under New Jersey law, this means the accused will almost certainly lose their firearms, often before they’ve even had a chance to appear in court. Even if the restraining order doesn’t mention firearms, a conviction of domestic violence will result in the seizure of legally held weapons and forfeiture of the accused’s NJ Firearm Purchaser’s ID.

Understanding Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO)

What is a TRO?

The decision to make a break from an abusive relationship is an important move that can save lives. Nearly 1 in 3 female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner in the United States, and statistics show their friends and family are in danger of harm as well. It is essential to protect survivors of domestic abuse as soon as possible.That’s where Temporary Restraining Orders come in.  As soon a victim reports their abuser to the police, they can place a Temporary Restraining Order against the alleged abuser. The legal system often moves slowly, and a TRO can protect a victim and their family until the courts rule on the matter.

TRO Law: How are they different from regular restraining orders?

The biggest difference between a temporary restraining order and a final restraining order is the time it stays in effect. A temporary order is just that: temporary. A TRO is easy to obtain, but there must be evidence of abuse to turn it into a permanent order. A prosecutor will assist with filing criminal charges against an abuser, but are often of little help to the victim. It takes a dedicated legal advocate to secure the most favorable restraining order terms. Likewise, the accused should retain an experienced defense lawyer. Sadly, TROs are often abused by vengeful spouses in divorce situations, and without a defense attorney, your career can be ruined by a permanent restraining order.

New Jersey Takes Restraining Orders Seriously

Violation of a restraining order in New Jersey will earn the violator jail time. Penalties for domestic violence have been strengthened in recent years, and NJ law is merciless towards alleged abusers and protective order violations. Under 2C:25-30 each violation will be charged as a separate act of contempt of court. This is a crime of the fourth degree, which means thousands of dollars of fines and over a year in state prison upon conviction. Compounding the contempt charge, most prosecutors will charge the violator with harassment, stalking, or terroristic threats. Just one angry, drunken text could earn the subject of the order months of jail time.

If the restraining order mentions firearms, the penalties are even more severe. If the FRO says you can’t own firearms, don’t even think of skirting the law. Even legal purchases in a state with liberal gun laws will become an illegal possession once you return it to NJ. Unlawful possession of a firearm can carry a decade in state prison. Don’t risk it. If you’ve lost your firearms to a restraining order and want your 2nd Amendment rights restored, only a skilled defense attorney fighting the order can do that. If you are the subject of a restraining order or fear you may be facing one in the near future, contact South Jersey Defense Attorney Ken Aita and get on track to restore your freedom.