A restraining order is more than a piece of paper that tells one person to stay away from another. The muscle of a restraining order can also take their right to own a firearm. In domestic violence cases, a restraining order (also known as an order of protection) can be a powerful tool to shield someone from an aggressor.
In New Jersey, almost 36% of women and more than 27% of men suffer stalking or physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) released data that showed there were 52 domestic violence homicides in the state in 2016, accounting for 14% of total homicides for that year.
Firearm Laws Related to Domestic Violence
Taking a gun away from an abuser is especially important. When the abuser has access to a gun, there is five times the risk of partner homicide.
The Garden State has the following laws related to firearms and domestic violence:
- Any found guilty of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking misdemeanors are prohibited from possessing firearms.
- Respondents (aggressors) to final protective orders are prohibited from possessing firearms.
- Judges may prohibit respondents of temporary protective orders from possessing firearms.
- Judges may require respondents to protective orders to surrender their firearms. Search and seizure of firearms may also be ordered.
- Police must confiscate firearms when they respond to domestic violence calls.
New Jersey’s Definition of Domestic Violence
Each state has its own definition of domestic violence in its respective laws. The NCADV defines it as “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another.”
New Jersey law states that domestic violence is the occurrence of one or more of the following criminal offenses inflicted upon a person protected under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991:
- Terroristic Threats
- False Imprisonment
- Criminal Coercion
- Sexual Assault
- Criminal Sexual Contact
- Criminal Mischief
- Criminal Trespass
Those protected under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 include “any person who is 18 years of age or older or who is an emancipated minor and who has been subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or any other person who is a present household member or was at any time a household member.” Victim also comprises anyone subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has a child in common or is pregnant with their child. Those who have experienced violence at the hands of someone they are dating are also protected by the act.
Types of Restraining Orders
There are two types of restraining orders, temporary and final. A restraining order prohibits someone from having contact with another and can include other stipulations. A temporary restraining order (TRO) is in effect until a court hearing is scheduled for both parties to present their sides. A final restraining order (FRO) is in effect permanently or until a judge vacates the order.
Temporary Restraining Order
When the request for a restraining order is filed, a judge can grant a TRO if they believe there is sufficient proof that your life, health, or well-being may be in danger. The TRO provides immediate protection based on your testimony and/or that of your attorney. A hearing must then be scheduled to give the alleged aggressor an opportunity to present their side. The TRO will remain in effect until that hearing is scheduled, usually within 10 days of the initial complaint.
Domestic violence doesn’t follow regular business hours. In emergency situations, call 9-1-1 to have police dispatched. An on-call judge may then grant the TRO and schedule the hearing.
Final Restraining Order
The plaintiff (victim) and defendant have an opportunity to tell their accounts during a court hearing. The judge will decide whether to grant the FRO based on the testimony, witness statements, and other evidence presented. A FRO does not expire in New Jersey. The FRO is enforceable anywhere in the U.S.
A final restraining order can include the following:
- Identify people that the defendant cannot contact
- Determine locations that the defendant cannot go
- Require the defendant to pay child support they owe (if applicable)
- Establish other actions that the defendant is not allowed to take
The order will include a warrant for law enforcement to search for and seize weapons.
During the hearing, custody and child support can be requested as part of the restraining order. An existing child support order can be modified as well. In addition, you can be provided a safe environment where the location remains confidential.
Consequences of Violating a Restraining Order
Restraining orders are divided into two parts. The first part includes stipulations about contact and the second part reflects requirements related to financial and parenting issues.
If the defendant violates the first part of the order, police should be called. They will be arrested, and criminal charges filed. Violating the restraining order is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Consequences can be more severe if there are additional underlying crimes.
If the second part of the order is violated, the plaintiff files a complaint in the family court where the order was issued.
Take Steps to Protect Yourself
Domestic violence is a very serious matter. Over time, violence often escalates, and the dangers can be life-threatening. At Lane & Lane, LLC, our lawyers are experienced in domestic violence law. Our familiarity and background in handling restraining order cases may help you best present your case before a judge.
If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. The New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline is 1 (800) 572-SAFE (7233).
Contact our trusted attorneys to learn how we can put our experience to work for you. Submit our online form or call us at (908) 259-6673.