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What Are the Consequences of Violating a Restraining Order?

Posted on: June 2, 2022

There is more than one kind of a restraining order, and each one has associated consequences imposed on those who violate them. States have their own laws that apply in these circumstances, and just like the other ones, New Jersey has a fairly long and comprehensive list. Depending on the particular restraining order and how it was violated, a person could face civil penalties, criminal penalties or both. These penalties can include large fines and jail or prison time.

What are the Different Kinds of Restraining Orders?

A domestic violence restraining order is a somewhat familiar term to most people, and probably one of the more common kinds. In New Jersey, it is when an adult or emancipated minor who is a spouse, former spouse, present or former household member, a former or current dating partner or someone who has a child in common (or someone expecting a child together) commits one of the following crimes that causes bodily injury to another person:

  • Assault
  • False imprisonment
  • Homicide
  • Kidnapping
  • Sexual assault or criminal sexual contact
  • Stalking or harassment (including cyber harassment)

Other qualifying crimes include lewdness, criminal mischief, terroristic threats, burglary, criminal trespass or restraint and contempt of a pervious domestic violence order. A sexual assault restraining order/sexual assault protective order differs because it’s a civil order. This offers protection to victims of sexual assault and other kinds of non-consensual sexual contact. Keep in mind that if the accused is a current or a former intimate partner, a domestic violence restraining order would need to be filed. The third category is an extreme risk protective order, which is another kind of civil order. This prohibits someone from having firearms in certain situations.

There are no fees associated with filing restraining orders or for having them served and you do not need a lawyer to do either. However, it is usually better to hire one, especially if the alleged accuser has one or if you fear that they may violate the order. Defendants who violate restraining orders are also advised to seek out legal guidance to protect their rights.

Are Restraining Orders Permanent?

In New Jersey, there are options for temporary and final restraining orders. A temporary ex parte (TRO) can be requested and issued immediately when a judge feels it is needed to protect the complainant’s well-being, health or life. The accused party need not be present when a TRO is issued, and it is good until a hearing for a final restraining order(FRO)  can be held.

Final restraining order hearings are usually held within 10 days after a TRO gets issued by a judge. At the hearing, both parties can explain their sides of the story and the judge will decide of a final restraining order is appropriate. It can be an indefinite order, unless one of the parties petitions the court to modify or end it. If the FRO is issued for extreme risk, the defendant will no longer be able to own a firearm legally, and will have to pay a $500 fine, as well as be photographed and fingerprinted for the police database.

What Protections do Restraining Orders Offer?

In New Jersey, TROs forbid defendants from returning to the scene where the domestic violence took place, unless they are accompanied by a law enforcement officer to pick up their personal belongings at a set date and time. They can also give a complainant temporary custody or possession of any children (and pets) living in the either household. A TRO can also give the complainant exclusive possession of the living space shared with the abuser, no matter whose name is on the lease or title.

A different kind of TRO can forbid a defendant from possessing weapons and firearms, unless they are in the military or law enforcement officers; in these cases, they can have them only when on duty. These orders can also allow other police to search for and take weapons and firearms permits at locations deemed reasonable by a judge.

Final restraining orders are more thorough, and like TROs, depend on individual circumstances. They can order an abuser not to commit domestic violence, harass, threaten or stalk the person named in the order. FROs also order abusers to stay away from anywhere named in the order, like a home, school or workplaces. Abusers can also be order to pay rent or mortgage if this is needed to support the complainant and any shared children, and some have to pay for reasonable losses that resulted from the abuse, like lost time at work due to inflicted injuries, property damage, and medical bills.

Defendants are also often ordered not to make any contact that might alarm or annoy the abused party, and this includes direct contact through texts and phone calls and third-party message through family members, employers and other people. They can also be ordered to attend domestic violence counseling.

What Other Protection Can a Restraining Order Offer Me?

A judge can also grant a complainant sole possession of a home, but if living there is not an option, the abuser could be ordered to pay the other person’s rent in certain situations. When children are part of the picture, temporary custody can also be granted. If the abuser is permitted to see the (minor) children, there will be a specific time and place for the visits, which will be supervised by a third party.

Temporary possession of shared property and pets can also be awarded to complainants, and this could include a vehicle, health insurance documentation, keys, checkbooks and other personal items. Emergency financial support for the abused and shared minor children and anything else that the judge feels is applicable can also be written into an FRO.

What Happens When Someone Violates a Restraining Order?

In New Jersey, restraining order violations are considered as “a contempt” of the court, meaning that the defendant did not follow what the court ordered them to do: in essence, he or she showed “contempt.” If you violate a restraining order, you could be arrested for a Disorderly Persons offense and then taken to jail. The offenses in this category include harassment, simple assault and obstruction of justice.  A court hearing will follow, which is often held in family court.

Before a court can determine if a restraining order has been violated, they must confirm that the defendant had received notice of such. If the accused was  not served or notified of the order, he or she should not be held for violating it. This could be used as a defense, unless the accused’s lack of knowledge is shown to be unreasonably based. Some defendants claim ignorance only in order to escape accountability.

Violating a restraining order is serious business: in NJ, it is classified as a felony charge, which is indictable. Felonies are categorized by how serious they are: Fourth degree are the least serious ones, and first-degree are the most severe with one example of this being murder. Violating a final restraining order is considered to be fourth-degree, according to NJ.S.A. 2C:29-9, but the penalties are considerable. If convicted, you could face a $10,000 fine and up to 18 months in prison. Subsequent violations incur more fines and jail time. If you feel that you’ve been wrongly accused of this kind of violation, reaching out to an experienced criminal defense lawyer could be the best move.

Contact a Belmar Criminal Defense Lawyer at Ellis Law if You Have Been Accused of Violating Any Type of Restraining Order

Facing serious charges like a restraining order violation can be overwhelming, but help can be found from an experienced Belmar criminal defense lawyer at Ellis Law. We are ready to hear your concerns, and will fight to protect your rights. For a free consultation, call our Freehold, New Jersey offices at 732-308-0200 or complete our online form. We help clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.

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