How Long Do You Go to Jail for Violating a Restraining Order in NJ?

In New Jersey, a restraining order is filed against a defendant to prevent them from contacting a plaintiff via phone, text, email, social media, or in person. If you violated a restraining order without a justifiable reason, you may face severe penalties, including a jail sentence. Continue reading to learn more about the amount of jail time you can receive for violating a restraining order in New Jersey, as well as what other consequences you may face.

Understanding Restraining Orders in New Jersey

A restraining order is issued by a judge against a defendant in an attempt to get them to cease contact with a plaintiff. Restraining orders bar communication in any form, including contact by phone, text, social media, and email. Restraining orders also prevent defendants from contacting plaintiffs in person at their home, the home of someone they know, their place of work, or a public place.

Restraining orders are usually issued as part of family law, such as a divorce or child custody case. They are also frequently used in domestic violence cases in NJ. Since 1982, restraining orders have been legal as part of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.

The Two Types of Restraining Orders in New Jersey

There are two types of restraining orders that may be issued against an individual: temporary restraining orders (TRO) and final restraining orders (FRO).

A temporary restraining order is issued directly after an individual files a complaint at a county courthouse or local police department. Temporary restraining orders are issued by a judge when they believe one will be necessary in order to protect the health and well-being of a victim. While they are usually issued in a courthouse, if an individual needs protection immediately and the courthouse is not open, then they may file a temporary restraining order at a municipal court, which usually has an on-call judge who can file one by phone or in person.

Within 10 days of the issuance of a temporary restraining order, the court is required to hold a hearing during which a judge will determine whether a final restraining order should be granted. (A judge can order a final restraining order even if you are not present for the hearing.)

To issue a final restraining order, a judge must find that proper legal grounds exist for issuing the order. It is permanent, meaning that it will last until one party — either the person who filed it or the person it was filed against — files a motion in court requesting that the judge end or modify the order.

If a judge places a restraining order against you, you will be fingerprinted. If you receive a restraining order as a result of a domestic violence offense, you will be placed on a domestic violence registry in addition to having the restraining order filed against you. Along with a restraining order, a judge can also order that you move out of a home that you share with the plaintiff, pay child support, pay spousal support, give up child custody, or prevent you from legally owning a firearm. They may also issue a fine between $50 and $500.

Length of Jail Time for Violating a Restraining Order

After police are notified about a restraining order violation, they will arrest the defendant and charge them with criminal contempt. Criminal contempt charges are heard in court in the county where the violation of the restraining order occurred. What follows is a criminal proceeding, which is carried out by a county prosecutor’s office.

Thus, violating a restraining order in New Jersey is a criminal offense. Violating a restraining order is either a fourth-degree crime or a disorderly persons offense. If a violation of a restraining order happens concurrently with another offense related to domestic violence (such as stalking, harassment, simple assault, aggravated assault, or terroristic threats), it is a fourth-degree crime and punishable by 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. If the violation of a restraining order does not constitute any other separate criminal offenses, then it is a disorderly persons offense and is punishable by 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Violating a disorderly persons offense for a second time results in 30 days in jail, at the very minimum.

How a Lawyer Can Defend Your Violation of a Restraining Order

If you have been charged with criminal contempt due to the violation of a restraining order, hiring a lawyer will greatly increase your chances of avoiding penalties. A lawyer can help you craft a defense for your violation.

Since an individual must have knowingly violated a restraining order in order to be charged with criminal contempt, the most common defense that lawyers use is a lack of knowledge that the restraining order existed. Before a court can determine whether a defendant violated a restraining order, they must confirm that the defendant had received notice of any restraining orders issued against them. If the defendant was never notified, then they cannot be held accountable for violating it.

New Jersey Defense Lawyer for Restraining Order Violations

Anyone who has been issued a restraining order should know that there are severe penalties, including jail time, for violating it. If you do violate a restraining order that has been issued against you, you should seek the help of an attorney immediately. The Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych can help you navigate the legal system in the aftermath of your violation of a restraining order in New Jersey. Contact them at your earliest convenience to set up a time to discuss the matter in a free and confidential consultation. Call (609) 616-4956 today.

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