Contempt Charge for Violating a Restraining Order in Essex County NJ
N.J.S. 2C:29-9 renders it illegal to purposely or knowingly disobey a judicial order (a.k.a. contempt). The State has a strong interest in enforcing court orders and especially those issued to protect individuals who are allegedly victims of domestic violence. The law takes this issue so seriously that individuals have been convicted of violating a restraining order where service is lacking (although the defendant was aware of its existence) and where the issuing court lacked jurisdiction. The gist of these extreme rulings is that our Courts, including the Essex County Superior Court, will not allow an individual to rely on a technicality to avoid prosecution for violation of a temporary restraining order or final restraining order. It is therefore critical for someone being prosecuted for contempt to take the offense seriously. Your first step to protect yourself is to contact a criminal attorney experienced in Essex County contempt violations like the former prosecutors at our firm. We are ready to provide you with a free initial consultations so that the facts of your case can be reviewed and the best strategy formulated for your defense. Give our Newark Criminal Defense Lawyers a call anytime 24/7 at 973-710-1520.
How Does The Prosecutor Prove Criminal Contempt?
When contempt proceedings are filed based on the violation of a temporary or final restraining order, a family court judge, with the assistance of a jury, decides all issues of fact and law. In this regard, the following must be established, beyond reasonable doubt, in order for contempt to be found:
- That a temporary restraining order or permanent restraining order was in effect;
- The defendant violated, disobeyed, hindered, obstructed or impeded the judicial order; and
- That the defendant purposely or knowingly violated the restraining order.
Where each and every one of these three (3) elements have been established, an individual may be convicted of violating N.J.S. 2C:29-9.
What Happens When Someone Is Arrested for Violating a Restraining Order?
If the police or judge find that there is a reasonable basis to believe that contempt has been committed (i.e. probable cause) and a TRO or FRO has been violated, then the accused may be arrested. A warrant complaint, that is, one which arrest mandatory, is limited to situations where the defendant is a risk to himself, others or property. Following the arrest, a criminal complaint is to filed charging the defendant with violating a restraining order. If the arrest is during regular business hours, then the officer is to contact a Superior Court judge to set bail. If it is outside this time or on a weekend, the municipal court judge typically set the bail. If the defendant is unable to timely post the bail amount, then he or she is to be incarcerated at the police station and/or at the County Jail.
Penalties If You Are Convicted Of A Restraining Order Violation
A conviction for contempt under N.J.S. 2C:29-9 can result in a disorderly persons offense or a fourth degree crime. The violation is a fourth degree crime where the conduct engaged in to violate the temporary restraining order/final restraining order would constitute a disorderly persons offense on its own (e.g. harassment, simple assault, etc.). Otherwise, violating a restraining order is a disorderly persons offense. Fourth degree contempt results in a fine of up to $7,500 and a prison term that is not to exceed 18 months. A conviction for disorderly persons contempt carries a county jail term of up to 6 months and a fine of $1,000. A term of imprisonment is mandatory for a second or subsequent violation.
Dismissal of a Final Restraining Order or Temporary Restraining Order
The fact that the victim ultimately dismissed the restraining order is of no consequence when it comes to a violation. So long as an order was in effect and was violated, its subsequent dismissal has no impact to the viability of a contempt charge. Dismissal is not a defense to contempt proceedings unless the dismissal was prior to the violation date.
Situations Where Contempt Does Not Apply Under N.J.S. 2C:29-9
Although a violation of a Domestic Violence order can also be prosecuted as a criminal contempt, there are certain instances where this criminal charge cannot be applied. There are five (5) situations where a defendant’s violation of a order cannot be a basis for contempt, including where the non-compliance concerns:
- Parenting time;
- Payment of monetary compensation (e.g. support);
- Payment of rent or a mortgage; or
- Temporary possession of personal property.
While these types of orders can be encompassed in a Domestic Violence Order, their violation may NOT be prosecuted as Criminal Contempt.
Restraining Order Violation Defense Lawyers, Newark NJ
As you can see, a restraining order contempt violation can be a serious matter. This is exceptionally true if this isn’t your first violation. Don’t let allegations of domestic violence snowball into life changing consequences. Our defense lawyers are knowledgeable and skilled in defending contempt charges and are prepared to help you. Call our Essex County Criminal Firm for immediate assistance in defending a restraining order violation or any other criminal matter. We are available for free consultation 24/7 at 973-710-1520.