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Domestic Violence Restraining Orders vs. Criminal Charges in New Jersey

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What’s the Difference between Restraining Orders and Criminal Charges in NJ Domestic Violence Cases?

Jersey City NJ Domestic Violence Attorney Answers 

Restraining Order and Domestic Violence Charges NJ
Difference between Domestic Violence Restraining Orders and Criminal Charges in NJ

Alleged victims of domestic violence in New Jersey are protected under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, which provides them with several options of how to proceed. They can file a restraining order, criminal charges, or both. These two potential avenues of a domestic violence case in NJ can spell serious, albeit different results. If you are facing accusations of domestic violence in New Jersey, it is important to educate yourself about both of these possibilities and find an experienced New Jersey domestic violence defense lawyer to defend you against the allegations. The attorneys at Proetta & Oliver are thoroughly equipped to defend you against all manner of domestic violence allegations. Whether you are facing a restraining order, criminal charges for domestic violence, or both, we will aggressively defend your innocence. Our domestic violence lawyers appear in criminal and family courts in Hudson County and throughout New Jersey on a regular basis. Contact our Jersey City office today at (201) 793-8018 for a free consultation about your case and continue reading for more information about the difference between domestic violence restraining orders and criminal charges in New Jersey. 

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders in New Jersey Family Court

The process of filing a domestic violence restraining order in New Jersey usually begins with an alleged victim calling the police to respond to a domestic violence call. Once the police arrive, they will inform the alleged victim of his or her rights under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act and inform them that if an assault was committed, the police must arrest the alleged abuser. If the alleged victim chooses to file for a temporary restraining order, the police officer will contact an on-call judge, who will make a determination about whether the alleged victim qualifies for protection. The alleged victim will then complete an application for a temporary restraining order (TRO).

When a judge reviews the TRO application, he or she will consider certain factors including the alleged facts of the incident, your past history of abuse or threats, the relationship between you and the alleged victim, and whether the victim is in imminent danger. The alleged victim will be asked about all previous instances of domestic violence, including incidents that were reported and those that were not reported. The judge will also check the Domestic Violence Central Registry to look for other past or present restraining orders against you.

After a temporary restraining order is issued, your case will be set for a hearing in the Superior Court, Family Division. You have a right to an attorney and a right to present your side of the story and your defense to the allegations. After the hearing, the judge will decide whether to issue a final restraining order. It is important to note that a restraining order is a civil case, not a criminal case. As such, there are different standards of proof that apply in restraining order cases when compared with criminal cases in New Jersey. Specifically, the burden of proof is lower in a restraining order case than a criminal case. This is why it is so essential to have an experienced restraining order attorney representing you at your FRO hearing in Family Court.  

Will I have my firearm taken away if I am charged with domestic violence or a restraining order is filed against me in NJ?

For the safety of the alleged victim and all parties involved, the judge may order your weapons and firearms to be seized and order that you not be allowed to possess firearms or other weapons. It is important that you surrender all firearms and weapons, as failure to do so could result in you being held in contempt of court. 

You will have an opportunity to explain to the court why you should have your weapons returned to you. So long as the prosecutor does not petition for forfeiture of your firearms and weapons, they will be returned to you once there is no longer a legal prohibition against your possession of firearms and other weapons.

What happens if criminal domestic violence charges are filed against me?

After a domestic violence incident, an alleged victim can also file criminal charges with the local police department. Depending on what they say happened, potential criminal charges for domestic violence could include simple assault, aggravated assault, sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, kidnapping, false imprisonment, harassment, stalking, criminal trespass, criminal coercion, violating of an existing domestic violence order, lewdness, terrorist threats, or murder. Many of these crimes carry the potential for significant terms of imprisonment and heavy fines. 

If the State can meet its burden of proof in your criminal case for domestic violence, you may be sentenced to jail, probation, community service, thousands in fines, anger management courses, and more. You will also have a criminal record that will follow you as you pursue future opportunities for employment or education. If you are convicted, some of the offenses above may be removed from your record through the expungement process after a waiting period. If the offense is a disorderly persons offense such as simple assault, you will have to wait five years. Indictable crimes require a minimum of six years in order to be expunged and some are not eligible for expungement at all.

Notably, law enforcement will always be able to access a domestic violence conviction on your record even after an expungement. This can present a serious problem if you are hoping to pursue a career as a police officer or other public servant. 

What should I do if I’m accused of domestic violence in New Jersey?

If you are facing a restraining order or criminal charges in connection with an alleged incident of domestic violence in New Jersey, contact the experienced domestic violence lawyers at our firm for immediate assistance. Our firm has handled countless domestic violence cases in courts throughout New Jersey and we can help you protect your rights. We can be reached 24/7 at (201) 793-8018 or online. Contact us now to speak with a New Jersey domestic violence defense attorney.