As in other states and jurisdictions, our New Jersey courts do not take domestic violence matters lightly, but take all precautions reasonable and necessary to assure that individuals are afforded the appropriate protection. Restraining orders, or protective orders issued by the court, are intended to protect victims of domestic violence, and other acts of violence. Generally, the provisions of a restraining order are based on the facts of a specific case, and so are established on a case-by-case basis. However, effective August 17, 2015, the New Jersey Legislature amended the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35, to further incorporate that a defendant’s knowing violation of the no-contact provision of a restraining order is, in and of itself, an independent act of domestic violence. N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(a)(17).
Whether you have sought a restraining order against someone in the past, or have had a restraining order sought against you, it is critical that you understand the strength and veracity of such orders, as punitive and/or criminal charges could be imposed if these orders are violated. In New Jersey, a victim of domestic violence can seek to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order and a Final Restraining Order, with longer-lasting protection achieved under the latter. Both are issued to protect a victim, and both contain a multitude of restrictions that both parties involved must be aware of. One restriction is the no-contact provision, establishing that domestic violence now includes “contempt of a domestic violence order pursuant to subsection (b) of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9 that constitutes a crime or disorderly persons offense.” In other words, the intentional or deliberate violation of the no-contact provisions of an existing restraining order constitutes an ace of domestic violence.
As of August 17, 2015, any knowing violation of a restraining order, even a non-violent act, such as sending a text message, electronic mail, or the like, can be recognized by the court as an independent act of domestic violence. Although restraining orders are sought and issued in the civil court, contempt actions involving such orders are addressed in the criminal court, and accordingly, violations of the provisions of a Final Restraining Order are considered criminal offenses. In certain circumstances, this can ultimately result in a jail sentence for the perpetrator. To some, the no-contact provision might seem excessive given the restrictions already carved out in a restraining order. However, a violation of this provision, alone, might demonstrate a defendant’s inability to adhere to even the most basic restrictions contained in a restraining order. Ignoring these core elements could translate into a complete disregard for the law, which our courts simply will not tolerate.
It is undisputed that every court shares the public policy interest of protecting a person’s rights and safety from harm, and one means of doing so is by restraining order. When individuals are granted this right of protection, it is of utmost importance that both parties identify and adhere to the restrictions involved. We encourage you to contact Jeralyn L. Lawrence, Esq., to understand your rights when seeking or defending a restraining order.