In cases of domestic violence, a judge may issue a restraining order against the defendant. Meant to prevent further harm to the victim, these protective orders mainly focus on eliminating contact between the two parties. However, some restraining orders can also limit other actions, such as owning firearms and other weapons. Once a plaintiff files for a restraining order, there will be a hearing, and the judge will create and issue a protective order based on the specific case. If you are found guilty of restraining order contempt charges, charged with violation of The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, section 2C:29-9, you can face heavy fines and even jail time.
When is a Restraining Order Issued?
Sometimes, courts issue a restraining order even without your knowledge. These are temporary restraining orders or ex parte restraining orders. When a victim of abuse files for a restraining order, a judge may enact these temporary orders if they feel there is imminent danger to the plaintiff. The court serves a defendant with the temporary order, which is in effect immediately up until the hearing for the full restraining order.
It is the right of the defendant to attend the hearing for their restraining order with a defense attorney to argue their case. Attending the hearing is not mandatory, but you should if you want to protect your rights and tell your side of the story. Restraining orders can affect everything, like where you live and your rights to any shared assets, including children and pets. It’s critical that you contact an attorney as soon as you are notified about the hearing date so you can prepare and have the best defense possible.
What Does a Restraining Order Prohibit?
A restraining order should prevent further harm to the victim in the case. Each order is specifically for the situation at hand. While no two will be exactly the same, restraining orders tend to follow a similar thread in what they allow or prohibit. If you’re facing a restraining order charge, you can expect some of the following limits:
- The defendant is not allowed to communicate with the plaintiff or any members of their household (be it in person, through the phone, or via electronic means).
- The defendant is not allowed to visit the plaintiff’s place of work, school, or residence.
- Children and pets shared by both parties may be placed in protective custody, and visitation rights may be removed or limited.
- The defendant is not allowed to threaten, harass, or physically harm the plaintiff or their household members.
- Law enforcement may be allowed to search suspect locations and seize any weapons found.
- The defendant is not allowed to own or purchase firearms.
While each restraining order is different, the main point is to prevent communication between the two parties and avoid further harm. When the judge issues a restraining order, they may give a set time when the order becomes ineffective, but in many cases, restraining orders can last indefinitely.
Restraining Order Contempt Charges
Not everyone who breaks a restraining order is doing so out of ill will. But no matter the reasoning behind it, any violations of the restraining order put you in contempt. Statute violation number 2c:29-9 determines the charges you face for restraining order contempt. The specifics of each case depend on whether the case is a disorderly persons or indictable crime offense.
Disorderly Persons Charge
Most violations of a restraining order qualify as a disorderly persons charge. While breaking a restraining order is still a serious offense, the penalties and punishments aren’t as strict as in other cases. That said, a defendant found in contempt of a restraining order can face a maximum of six months in county jail. They may also have a fine of up to $1,000. The specifics of your charges will depend on the extent and intent of the violation. If a defendant is found to have committed a second act of contempt, there is an additional, mandatory 30 day jail time penalty.
Indictable Crime Charge
Some cases of restraining order contempt will classify as third-degree indictable charges. Courts treat indictable crimes much more severely, and they carry far heftier penalties. A defendant found guilty of a third-degree indictable charge could face a maximum of 10 years in prison. There may also be a fine of up to $10,000. Violations of a restraining order classify as an indictable offense if:
- The defendant already has two or more restraining order contempt charges on record.
- The defendant faced charges of stalking or physically assaulting the victim.
What to Do if You Face Restraining Order Violation Charges
Having a restraining order issued can be a frustrating and stressful experience. Sometimes you may not even know what prompted someone to take action against you. However, any attempt to contact the plaintiff for answers or making an attempt to clear things up could put you in contempt of your restraining order. If this happens, it’s important to secure a defense attorney for your hearing. An attorney will be able to help you argue your case. You may even secure less severe punishments depending on the intent of your violation.
Finding a Restraining Order Contempt Attorney
When you have a restraining order or face restraining order contempt charges, the right attorney on your side could be the difference between protecting your rights or not. Attorney Leon Matchin has devoted his practice to protecting the rights of his clients. He’ll help you build a strong defense for your case. Also, he will work hard to properly represent you and address your concerns. If you need help with a restraining order or violation charge, call Attorney Leon Matchin today. You can reach him at 732-887-2479, or email him at [email protected]. Hearings for restraining orders move quickly. It’s important you contact his office as soon as possible to discuss your case and ensure availability for your hearing.