The law is filled with enough limitations on what you can do, so when a court order restricts your actions even further, it can be frustrating. It is not surprising that so many protective orders and restraining orders are violated every year. Not only can you get arrested for violating the restraining order, but any new crime you commit can also be charged and prosecuted.
If you have been accused of violating a restraining order, it is very important to talk to a criminal defense attorney. Violating a court order in Galloway Township, NJ goes beyond a family law dispute or civil action and becomes a criminal matter. Take your criminal case to a criminal defense attorney, like those at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych.
New Jersey Protective Order Violations
In New Jersey, a restraining order works to protect victims of crime and abuse from further harm. The victim, called the petitioner, asks the court to issue an order to help keep them safe. These orders are usually temporary restraining orders (TROs), but can be extended into final restraining orders that remain in place for years if the court is shown the order is necessary. TROs can be granted on an emergency basis, especially in cases of domestic abuse. Whenever the police make a domestic violence arrest, they are required to inform the victim that they can apply for a restraining order, and courts often grant these.
Domestic abuse is one of the most common reasons for a petitioner to get a restraining order, and these orders can be especially powerful. If the defendant and the petitioner live together, the order can turn exclusive possession of the property over to the petitioner and bar the defendant from entering his or her own house. Moreover, restraining orders may make decisions about visitation rights for shared children, temporary child custody decisions, decisions regarding the defendant’s ability to own weapons, prevention of crime against the petitioner, and may order support payments or even counseling. Courts even have broad authority to create other rules that will help protect the petitioner or children.
The rules that a defendant must follow are written in the restraining order, and are different in each case. Some terms may seem redundant, such as barring the defendant from committing any crimes against the petitioner, but they act to increase the penalties for such actions. Any violation, even of the least serious term, could count as a full violation of the order and trigger legal action.
Penalties for Restraining Order Violations in NJ
Violating any court order is generally called “contempt.” The kind of contempt involved with violating a restraining order is actually a crime in its own right, under N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. If the order you violated is specifically a domestic violence order issued against you by a dating partner or someone in your household, the penalties may actually be less serious. If the conduct that you committed in violation of the order was not in itself a crime, the contempt charges are a disorderly persons offense. This would include violations that disobey terms related to things like seeking counseling or making rent payments. A disorderly persons offense may not be a “crime” in New Jersey, but can still lead to up to six months in jail and fines up to $1,000.
If the conduct that violates the order is independently a crime in its own right, the contempt charges are a fourth degree crime. This would include violations of the order by assaulting the petitioner, trespassing in their house, or stalking them, among other conduct. A fourth degree crime is punished by up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $10,000. In some cases, this may actually be as severe as the independent criminal charges.
If the restraining order was based on a crime you allegedly committed against the petitioner in the first place, a violation of the order could affect those charges. At sentencing for that crime (or for any crimes you commit in violation of the order), the fact that you violated a court order related to the case might hurt you at sentencing. You might also face additional punishments or crimes for committing further crimes against the same victim or for victim/witness intimidation.
Repeated violations of the court order lead to increased penalties, so it is always important to talk to an attorney after your first violation, rather than waiting until punishments stack up.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you have been charged with violating a restraining order in Galloway Township, take your case to a criminal defense attorney. The lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent defendants in Galloway and throughout New Jersey on their restraining order violations and their independent criminal charges. For a free, confidential consultation on your case, call (609) 616-4956 today.