Criminal consequences of violating a restraining order
The Family Division in the Superior court handles restraining orders. It is a civil matter.
However, restraining order violations carry criminal consequences.
Think twice before you send that text!
What is a Restraining Order?
A restraining order is an order issued by the court. It protects a victim of domestic violence. A restraining order prohibits a person from contacting or communicating with another person. If you are issued a restraining order against you, you cannot contact the person who requested the order. If you do, you’ve committed a restraining order violation. The consequences are severe.
New Jersey Violation of a Restraining Order Law
New Jersey law, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-30, says that a person is in contempt where he or she violates a temporary or final restraining order. If the police believe that you violated a restraining order, you can be arrested. After you are arrested, there will be a court hearing to determine if you violated the court’s order.
What is contempt?
Restraining order violations are labeled “a contempt” of the court. That means that the person violating the order did not follow the court’s order. The person, therefore, showed “contempt” for the court.
Contempt proceedings for violations of a restraining order are heard in family court.
In restraining order violation cases, you probably also got arrested for a Disorderly Persons offense.
What penalties do I face?
Violation of a restraining order is a felony. Felony charges are also called indictable offenses in New Jersey.
Felonies are graded according to their seriousness. Fourth-degree felonies are the least serious felonies. The most serious felonies are first degree. Murder can be a first-degree felony.
A violation of a final restraining order is a fourth-degree felony under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9. Although it is the lowest degree of felony, it is still very serious. If convicted of a restraining order violation, you would face up to 18 months in prison, and up to a $10,000 fine. The penalties for a second or subsequent violation include a jail sentence of at least 30 days. This sentence is mandatory.
Why did I receive a charge of contempt and another criminal charge?
Restraining order violations create a huge opportunity for you to get charged with another offense. The restraining order violation is a contempt charge. The other charge maybe for a misdemeanor offense (also called a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey), or a felony charge.
Felonies include aggravated assault, kidnapping, sexual assault, and other charges.
You may be charged with contempt of court and simple assault, for example.
Or, you may be charged with contempt of court and kidnapping.
So, in either example, you would face the restraining order violation penalties and the penalties for the charge.
Restraining Order Violations: Penalties
A violation of a final restraining order is a fourth-degree felony under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9. This means that you could be jailed for up to 18 months if convicted.
If you are also charged with a misdemeanor, you would also face up to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
Penalties for a felony charge depend on the degree of the felony.
Read more about Felony Charges: 5 Steps To Start Fighting Back!
What if I did not know I had a restraining order issued against me?
In determining whether there have been restraining order violations in your case the court must confirm that you knew about the restraining order before deciding if you violated the order.
You must be given a copy of the restraining order issued against you, or you must have known about the order. You have a defense if you did not know about the order, but your lack of knowledge must be reasonable.
Is the first restraining order violation a minimum charge?
No, restraining order violations are classified as a fourth-degree felony under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9. (we explained this above)
If you violate a restraining order, you are subject to the penalties for violating a fourth-degree felony. If you are also charged with harassment, you will face penalties for harassment.
Harassment is a petty disorderly persons offense (lowest level misdemeanor). The penalties for harassment are up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Therefore, you will face up to 18 months in prison, and up to a $10,000 fine for the violation of the restraining order. You will also face up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for the harassment charge.
So, think about it? Now that you’re familiar with restraining order violations & their consequences, is it worth it?
Is there a statute of limitations for a restraining order violation?
Restraining order violations can be reported at any time.
How to Expunge Restraining order Violations
If a temporary restraining order is dismissed, then the record can be expunged.
If a final restraining order is granted by the court, it cannot be expunged. However, there are two options available.
The first option is that you have 45 days to appeal the court’s decision.
The second option is that you can file a motion to vacate the final restraining order. You must prove that there has been a change in circumstances over time, and that the permanent restraining order is no longer necessary.
Read more about Expungements!