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Significant Jail Time and Huge Fines May Result from Restraining Order Violations

Police car at nightA domestic violence restraining order is easily one of the most misunderstood instruments in the family law practice area.

The entry of a “final” restraining order occurs when the Court finds that the defendant (1) committed an enumerated “predicate” act of domestic violence against (2) a person with whom they have a requisite relationship provided for by the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) of 1991. We’ve outlined and analyzed the ins and outs of these steps here at our DeMichele & DeMichele blog.

It’s important to know that the standard at work at a final restraining order hearing is lower than at a criminal trial. Whereas the prosecutor must ordinarily prove that you were guilty of committing a crime like theft or assault “beyond a reasonable doubt,” to finalize a restraining order, the Judge need only find culpability by “a preponderance of evidence,” a concept which means only that the accused “more likely than not that” committed the culpable act.

Violations of final restraining orders are a different story.

When you stand accused of violationg a restraining order, the Court must find that you’re guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” rather than only by a “preponderance of the evidence.” In addition, the State must demonstrate that the Defendant both “knowingly and purposefully” intended to commit a violation of the restraining order.

It’s a good thing that the standard is more difficult because the potential consequences are severe for convicted defendants. N.J.S.A. 2C:25-30 and N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9 provide the details:

2C:25-30. Violation of order; contempt proceedings; subsequent offenses Except as provided below, a violation by the defendant of an order issued pursuant to this act shall constitute an offense under subsection b. of N.J.S. 2C:29-9 and each order shall so state. All contempt proceedings conducted pursuant to N.J.S. 2C:29-9 involving domestic violence orders, other than those constituting indictable offenses, shall be heard by the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court. All contempt proceedings brought pursuant to P.L.1991, c. 261 (C. 2C:25-17 et seq.) shall be subject to any rules or guidelines established by the Supreme Court to guarantee the prompt disposition of criminal matters. Additionally, and notwithstanding the term of imprisonment provided in N.J.S. 2C:43-8, any person convicted of a second or subsequent nonindictable domestic violence contempt offense shall serve a minimum term of not less than 30 days.

2C:29-9. Contempt. b. Except as provided below, a person is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree if that person purposely or knowingly violates any provision in an order entered under the provisions of the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991,” P.L.1991, c. 261 (C.2C:25-17 et al.) or an order entered under the provisions of a substantially similar statute under the laws of another state or the United States when the conduct which constitutes the violation could

Alleged violators will be arrested on the spot and placed in jail until a judge sets bail and that bail amount is posted. A “fourth degree crime” charge will be disposed of by the Criminal Division of the Superior Court and carries fines of $10,000.00 and up to eighteen (18) months in state prison. A disorderly persons offense remains with the Family Part but can result in a fine of $1,000.00 and up to six (6) months in jail. Second and subsequent disorderly persons violations carry a minimum jail term of thirty (30) days.

We can help if your life and livelihood are on the line. If you’ve been accused of committing domestic violence, a DeMichele & DeMichele attorney will carefully scrutinize you accuser’s proofs (or lack thereof), discuss possible defenses and work tirelessly to defend your rights. during this emotionally trying time.

Remember: you don’t have to go through this alone! If you or a loved one have questions regarding domestic violence, please contact the New Jersey family law attorneys at DeMichele & DeMichele.  Your confidential, initial consultation is only a click or call away.  Call now to speak to one of our matrimonial attorneys at (856) 546-1350 or click here to contact us online.

Post Author: Matt Rooney

is a New Jersey attorney, former Superior Court law clerk, and noted commentator who focuses his practice on family law, municipal court defense, and personal injury matters. He was recognized by SJ Magazine as a 2018 “Top Divorce & Family Attorney."