Violating a Restraining Order (Contempt Charge In NJ)
In cases of domestic violence, a judge may choose to issue a restraining order if they believe someone is in physical or psychological danger. A restraining order prevents contact between the two parties to help prevent any further harm. Although the focus of the order is to restrict contact methods, certain actions could also be limited, such as the right to own a firearm or other weapon. Violating a restraining order is a contempt charge in NJ under the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, section 2C:29-9. Penalties for violating a restraining order include hefty fines and jail time.
Types of Restraining Orders
When a plaintiff files for a restraining order, the judge may issue a temporary restraining order as well. Because a full restraining order requires a hearing before it comes into effect, temporary restraining orders may be issued if the judge believes a plaintiff is in immediate danger. The temporary restraining order is immediately in effect and lasts until the official hearing for the full restraining order.
When someone files a restraining order, the defendant will be notified of the official hearing date and be served with any temporary restraining order in place. The defendant has the right to attend the hearing with their defense attorney. Although it is not mandatory for a defendant to attend the hearing, it is the best way to argue your case and defend your rights. Restraining orders can have massive impacts on your life, such as where you live and whether or not you maintain your rights to shared assets, children, or pets. Attending the hearing with a defense attorney is critical if you want to ensure your rights are protected.
Restraining Order Limitations
A restraining order, either full or temporary, is designed to prevent harm to the plaintiff. Each situation will require a different restraining order, and the limitations will depend on the case at hand. Although each restraining order is different, they tend to prohibit the same kind of activities. Such activities include:
- Communicating with the plaintiff or any members of their household in person, through the phone, or via electronic means
- Visiting the plaintiff’s place of work, school, or residence
- Threatening, harassing, or physically harming the plaintiff or their household members
- Owning or purchasing firearms
In addition to limiting activities, restraining orders can also impact your rights. For example, a restraining order can place children and pets in protective custody, taking away a defendant’s custody or visitation rights. While some restraining orders may have a set time when they become ineffective, most tend to last indefinitely. This is why it’s so important for defendants to attend the hearing with a defense attorney so they can argue their case.
Penalties for a Contempt Charge in NJ
When you violate a restraining order, you’ll face a contempt charge under Statute violation number 2C:29-9. Even if the violation was not done out of ill will, it still classifies as contempt. The specific penalties you’ll face will depend upon the original restraining order, the motive behind the violation, and the type of violation committed. A contempt charge in NJ can qualify as either a disorderly persons or an indictable crime offense.
Disorderly Persons Penalties
Many cases of a restraining order violation will classify as a disorderly persons charge. While it’s still considered a serious offense, the penalties a defendant faces aren’t as extreme as other incidents. A violation of a restraining order carries with it time in county jail and a fine. However, if this is a defendant’s second contempt charge, they will face a mandatory 30-day jail time penalty.
Indictable Offense Penalties
Some extreme violations of a restraining order will move the contempt charge to an indictable offense. These cases have more severe penalties, including prison time and a fine. There are two reasons a restraining order violation would classify as a third-degree indictable offense:
- The defendant already has two or more restraining order contempt charges on record
- The defendant is charged with stalking or physically assaulting the victim
How to Deal with Restraining Order Violation Charges
It can be frustrating and stressful to have a restraining order against you. In some cases, you may not even know that someone would take action against you. However, attempting to contact a plaintiff for more information puts you in contempt of your restraining order. When this happens, you’ll be charged with contempt and will need to attend a hearing with your defense attorney. Working with a lawyer can help you argue your case and secure fewer penalties, depending on the intent behind your violation.
Defending Against a Contempt Charge in NJ
If you find yourself facing a contempt charge in NJ, working with a defense attorney will help make the difference in your case. Attorney Leon Matchin has devoted his practice to defending the rights of his clients and ensuring a favorable outcome where possible. He works hard to build a strong defense for each case and will represent you and your concerns during any restraining order hearing. Restraining order cases tend to move quickly, so time is of the essence if you want an experienced and knowledgeable defense attorney on your side. You can call Attorney Matchin at 732-887-2479 or email him at [email protected] to set up a consultation about your case.