Criminal Mischief

Who Qualifies as a Victim in a New Jersey Restraining Order?

Restraining orders are designed to help protect victims of domestic violence from further harm. However, not just anyone can file for a restraining order. In order to get a judge to issue one, the requester must be a victim of domestic violence according to New Jersey law. There are certain conditions that must be met in order for someone to qualify as a victim and obtain a New Jersey restraining order against a defendant. 

What is Domestic Violence?

In order to obtain a restraining order against a defendant, the requester must have evidence of some kind that they were the target of domestic violence. There are several actions that can constitute domestic violence in New Jersey Law. The Prevention of Domestic Violence act of 1991 categorizes an act of domestic violence as including any of the following:

  • Assault
  • Criminal Sexual Contact
  • Kidnapping
  • Burglary
  • Criminal Trespass
  • Lewdness
  • Criminal Mischief
  • False Imprisonment
  • Sexual Assault
  • Criminal Restraint
  • Harassment
  • Stalking 
  • Terroristic Threats
  • Homicide

However, these acts on their own do not automatically make the crime an act of domestic violence. There has to be some kind of domestic link between the defendant and the victim for the laws and restraining orders of domestic violence to apply.

Who Qualifies as a Victim of Domestic Violence?

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act was created to help protect victims of domestic violence. The act lays out the groundwork for who constitutes a victim under certain conditions. For an act of violence to be declared domestic violence, a judge will consider the relationship between the defendant and the victim.

Victim Age

According to New Jersey law, a victim of domestic violence must be over the age of 18 or an emancipated minor. Minors can be emancipated in a number of ways, including filing for emancipation once they are 16. However, a minor will automatically become emancipated according to the law if they fit any of the following conditions:

  • Have been married
  • Have had a child
  • Are currently pregnant
  • Have entered military service

Victim-Defendant Relationship

The relationship between the victim and the defendant is the main key in determining whether or not the act is considered domestic violence. A person is protected under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act if they are subjected to an act of domestic violence by a current or former spouse. The act also includes any housing relationship, meaning that an act of violence against a victim by a current or former roommate, regardless of their romantic involvement, qualifies as domestic violence. 

However, marriage and living together are not the only qualifications for domestic violence. Even if a victim was never married or lived with the defendant, they are still considered a victim of domestic violence if:

  • They have a child with the victim
  • One of the parties is pregnant with a shared child
  • The victim and defendant had a previous dating relationship

Although the focus of domestic violence lies in the family relationship between the defendant and the victim, any sort of domestic situation plays a part in determining whether someone is a victim of domestic violence.

restraining order

Photo by David Veksler on Unsplash

Can Victims File Criminal Charges as Well as Restraining Orders?

A victim of domestic violence can file for a restraining order to help protect themselves from further violence. However, because all acts of domestic violence are also considered crimes under New Jersey law, a victim may choose to also file criminal charges. While filing criminal charges is a choice, it’s important to note that the police can also file criminal charges if there are signs of injury or weapon use. Some victims of domestic violence may choose to simply get a restraining order and be done with the whole business, while others may seek further punishment against the defendant. Getting a restraining order does not prevent a victim from filing further charges and lawsuits.

How Soon Does a Restraining Order Go into Effect?

When a victim of domestic violence files for a restraining order, they will often go alone before a judge for an initial hearing. During this hearing, the judge will determine if there is a present threat to the victim’s safety. They most often will issue a temporary restraining order that provides immediate protection. This temporary restraining order only lasts a few days, and another hearing is scheduled to enact the full restraining order.

Once the temporary restraining order has been issued, the defendant will be served with the order and notified of the hearing date. The next hearing is an opportunity for both parties to tell their side of the story. It’s vital that you bring a domestic violence lawyer with you to help protect your rights and make your case. After this hearing, the judge will either dissolve the temporary restraining order or issue a full restraining order. 

What to Do if You are Served a Restraining Order

If you get served with a restraining order, the most important thing you can do is follow it. Even if you aren’t sure why you’re being served, any attempt to contact the victim can put you in contempt, adding further penalties to your record. As soon as possible, contact an attorney to help you with your case. Because the hearings for a full restraining order are usually within two weeks, it’s necessary that you get an attorney early to ensure they’ll be available during your hearing.

Defense for Restraining Orders

If a judge orders a restraining order against you, contact Attorney Leon Matchin right away. He has dedicated his practice to forming strong defenses for his clients and protecting their rights no matter the situation. Domestic violence cases can be tricky and are handled seriously by the courts. If you don’t have the proper defense, you can’t be sure that your case is being heard. So, contact Attorney Leon Matchin today at (833) 732-7320, or email him at for a consultation about your case.

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