Restraining orders are often very complex. Lawyers and judges work to use restraining orders to keep people safe and put defendants on notice that their behavior is unacceptable or dangerous. Many times, restraining orders are the best defense to keep someone safe from domestic violence or dangerous relationships. A restraining order is typically targeted at only one person – but what if the protected party violates the order designed to protect them? This could happen, for example, if they called their ex or reached out to them while the order was still in place. Can the protected party be arrested and punished for this? Can they still use the restraining order to punish the defendant if they were the one that reached out first? Our Atlantic City restraining order defense attorneys explain.

Can You Violate Your Own Restraining Order in New Jersey?

Typically, when someone files for a restraining order – often against their dating partner, spouse, or significant other – the order is usually targeted at only that one person. The “respondent” or “defendant” is the person whom the order is filed against. This person is usually named in the restraining order, and the restraining order’s terms apply to “restrain” only that person, not the person who filed for the order (the “petitioner”).

The terms of a restraining order typically do not go both ways. This means that while the defendant might not be able to contact the petitioner under the terms of the restraining order, the order does not stop the petitioner from reaching out to the defendant. However, issues of domestic disputes and domestic violence can get very complicated. In some cases, the defendant may be able to file for a restraining order of their own, which might mean that neither of you can contact the other. The judge might also warn the petitioner not to reach out to the defendant when they grant the order, and refusing to listen to a judge often does not go well, even if it wasn’t an official order.

What if the Person Who Has a Restraining Order Against Me Contacts Me First?

If someone has a restraining order against you that says you cannot contact then, nothing legally prevents them from reaching out to you – but doing so can complicate matters. If the petitioner reaches out to you while a restraining order is in place, you could get in trouble for responding. Even if they started the conversation, it is still technically illegal for you to talk to them while the no-contact restraining order is in place. This means that if anything goes wrong or they end up reporting you to the police again, you might not be able to argue that “they started it.”

This may, however, influence a police officer’s decision to make an arrest or a judge’s decision to consider the incident a restraining order violation. When the petitioner reaches out to the defendant, police may refuse to make an arrest if the petitioner invited the violation. If the case comes across the judge’s desk, they may refuse to enforce the order because it might be unfair for the defendant to face consequences for something the petitioner started.

In some cases, police and judges will still enforce the restraining order, even if the protected party reached out first. Sometimes, couples seek to make up and get back together while the order is still in effect. If everything goes okay, it’s unlikely that either party is going to report a restraining order violation in the first place. However, if the defendant begins abusing the petitioner again or takes their money or children away, the fact that the petitioner started building bridges usually will not stop police from charging the defendant with a restraining order violation.

Just because the protected party “violated” the restraining order does not give the defendant the right to ignore the order. As long as it is in effect, the defendant could be arrested and charged with a restraining order violation.

Can I Get a Restraining Order Dropped or Modified in NJ?

Both parties to a restraining order may file with the court to get the order changed or dropped. Most restraining orders start as emergency petitions to get temporary restraining orders. These orders are designed to expire quickly, and both parties must go to court to get the order renewed or extended to begin with. If the petitioner decides the order is no longer necessary after the temporary order lapses, they can simply not renew it, and the order will be cancelled.

If the order is still in place or there is a permanent restraining order issued, either party can go to court to try to get it altered or terminated. If the restraining order was filed against a spouse or partner, you are still allowed to get back together – in which case the restraining order will be a burden. Courts allow either side to file to have the order dropped if it is no longer necessary and there is no appreciable danger.

When the petitioner files to have the order dropped, the court is likely to grant the request – but they may want to hear from the petitioner to make sure nothing is being done under duress. If the defendant files, the court will likely have a hearing to see if the order should be dropped and whether there is still a risk of domestic violence or assault.

Restraining orders are not “all or nothing” situations; you can ask to have part of the order dropped while keeping another part. For instance, if the order includes an order not to contact the petitioner and an order not to commit any crimes against the petitioner, you can drop the no-contact order but keep the part protecting the petitioner from violence, which can help repair a relationship while still adding a measure of protection.

Atlantic City Criminal Defense Lawyers Offering Free Legal Consultations

Our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers have decades of experience representing criminal defendants in restraining order violation cases and other criminal cases. If you or a loved one was accused of a crime in South Jersey, our attorneys might be able to help. Call (609) 616-4956 today to set up a free legal consultation on your case.