Violating a restraining order can lead to additional punishments and penalties on top of those you might already be facing. Because restraining orders are court orders aimed at protecting others, any perceived violation might automatically be treated like a violation. Because of this, it is important to hire a criminal defense attorney to help protect your rights.
The attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent clients in Egg Harbor and throughout New Jersey. It is very important to understand that violating a restraining order can be considered a criminal case, so taking your case to a criminal defense attorney may be your best chance for a positive outcome. Especially if you are accused of violating a restraining order by committing further crimes, talk to an attorney about your restraining order.
Restraining Orders in Egg Harbor Twp
The power behind a restraining order in New Jersey is very broad and can affect many parts of your life. A victim, called the petitioner under a restraining order, requests the order, but the judge gives the order power. A judge is authorized by N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-29 to craft a restraining order that affects any of the following:
- Further violence against the petitioner
- Possession of a shared home – and whether the defendant is allowed to enter the residence
- Temporary parenting time orders
- Restitution for injuries or harm
- Counseling or therapy
- Prohibiting the defendant from going to the petitioner’s place of work, school, or other locations
- Prohibiting communication by defendant
- Forcing the defendant to pay (or continue paying) the petitioner’s rent or mortgage
- Turning over property (e.g. a car, a checkbook, a key, etc.)
- Child support and custody
- Turning over firearms and other weapons
- Preventing further crime against the petitioner
Though some of these things may seem redundant, such as barring further crime against the petitioner (which is already illegal), these kinds of orders work to increase the penalties for additional crimes and other harms.
Restraining orders can be granted in multiple ways. The initial arrest for a crime like assault or another domestic violence incident may lead to an “ex parte” hearing to grant a temporary order. These orders are granted without a chance for the defendant to put up a legal defense. Within 10 days, the defendant must be given a hearing where the judge will determine if an order is necessary or not. Protective or restraining orders may be temporary restraining orders (TROs) which last for a limited period of time and must be renewed, or a final restraining order (FRO), which lasts until it is no longer necessary and a court dissolves the order. An FRO can last for years, but TROs are often quite limited in time. Violating either type of order is equally severe and can lead to serious consequences.
Penalties for Restraining Order Violation in Egg Harbor Twp
Violating any court order is known as “contempt,” and is grounds for independent criminal charges in New Jersey. N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9 makes it a fourth degree crime to violate a court order. Fourth degree crimes are punished by up to 18 months in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
However, this fourth degree level is only available under certain circumstances. For a violation of any order aside from a domestic violence order, the violation is always a fourth degree crime. If the domestic violence order is violated by conduct that is a crime, independent of the restraining order, then that violation is a fourth degree crime. This means violating a restraining order by stalking, assaulting, or stealing from the petitioner would be punished as a fourth degree crime. Instead, if the conduct is not criminal, then the violation is a disorderly persons offense. This includes things like entering your own home, talking to your shared children, or refusing to pay rent. Disorderly persons offenses are punished with up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
If the conduct is a crime in and of itself, you may also face prosecution for that crime. This can yield high penalties, depending on the crime. For this crime and for any initial crime or abuse that lead to the restraining order, you may also face independent prosecution. With either of these crimes, the fact that you violated a restraining order might hurt you at sentencing. Additionally, committing multiple crimes against the same person may increase penalties or count as victim/witness intimidation, meaning more charges or penalties.
Our Egg Harbor Township Attorneys Can Help
The New Jersey defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych may be able to represent you on your restraining order violation case. Especially if you were charged with additional crimes for your violation, it is important to talk to a criminal defense attorney, specifically. Call (609) 616-4956 today for a free consultation.