What Does a Restraining Order Do?
Restraining orders in New Jersey commonly result from allegations of domestic violence. These orders can only be issued by a Superior Court Judge after hearing evidence that the plaintiff (the victim) has been subject to some type of criminal behavior under The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 by the defendant (the accused). These orders are also known as protective orders. Restraining orders issued by court judges carry with them various restrictions that can greatly impact your life and relationships with family. They also carry a social stigma that can negatively affect your reputation.
Various types of restraining orders can be issued based on the circumstances. It is important to know that a restraining order is not a criminal matter. It is a civil matter that commonly occurs in family courts. Furthermore, if you are named as the aggressor in a potential restraining order, you can contest it in court with valid evidence to prevent it from being granted. You can also appeal an existing restraining order to have it removed, once again by demonstrating to the court evidence that supports its removal.
What a Restraining Order Does
A restraining order is issued as a protective measure for the alleged victim against domestic abuse. In the simplest terms, it bans any further actions that violate the domestic violence law and prohibits the accused aggressor from contacting the protected person. This protection can be made in various ways as outlined in the order. It can also provide other restrictions as well.
Restraining order restrictions and sanctions can include:
- Banning any type of contact with the victim, whether through immediate contact, phone calls, texts, emails, or third parties
- Banning contact with the victim at home, at work, at school, or in places he or she frequently visits
- Ordering the defendant to vacate the shared home
- Limiting or banning custody or visitation of children
- Ordering child support
- Banning the possession of firearms
- Ordering professional counseling, such as a batterer’s program
- Ordering the defendant to pay restitution to the victim for any medical expenses, counseling expenses, or property damage
In seeking a restraining order, the alleged victim must show the court that an abusive act has occurred, that a history of such abuse exists, and that he or she fears further abuse. One isolated instance of a violent threat or action as alleged by the victim is not a “history” of abuse and therefore likely not enough for a judge to act on.
Types of Restraining Orders
Two types of restraining orders can be sought. These include a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a Final Restraining Order (FRO). A TRO can be issued as the first step when allegations of domestic violence are made to the court by the victim. It is generally easier to obtain a TRO than an FRO. A TRO stays in effect only until a formal hearing can be conducted to determine if it should be made permanent.
An FRO can only be issued if you have been served a TRO. It will be decided in a hearing where the judge will hear evidence from both sides. This includes sworn testimony from both parties and from witnesses as well. If the judge determines that a domestic violence crime has occurred, that a history of such violence exists, and that the safety of the victim is at stake, the restraining order will be issued on a permanent basis.
How Likely Is the Issuance of a Restraining Order?
Unfortunately, the standard of proof used in restraining order hearings is not one based on “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” but on what is called “a preponderance of evidence.” This lower standard means that you will more likely than not be found “guilty.” Because of this lower standard, it becomes more important than ever to have the best possible defense. At Brickfield & Donahue, you can rely on the proven expertise of our Certified Criminal Trial Specialists who can work to protect your best interests in any restraining order hearing or appeal.
For legal assistance with your defense, contact us online or at (201) 574-7919 today.