Violating a Restraining Order

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 What Is a Restraining Order?

A restraining order is an order issued by the court that protects a victim of domestic violence. A restraining order forbids a person from contacting or communicating with another person. If you are issued a restraining order against you, you cannot contact the person who requested the order. If you do not abide by the order, you violate the restraining order and the consequences can be severe.

For instance, in New Jersey, restraining order violations are labeled as “contempt” of the court, meaning the person violating the order did not adhere to the court’s ruling. The person, therefore, showed “contempt” for the court. Contempt proceedings for violations of a restraining order are typically heard in family court. In restraining order violation cases, you may be arrested for a Disorderly Persons offense.

The Disorderly Person offenses include the following:

  • Harassment
  • Resisting Arrest
  • Obstruction of Justice
  • Eluding
  • Marijuana Possession
  • Simple Assault

Violation of a restraining order is considered a felony. Felony charges are also referred to as indictable offenses in New Jersey. Felonies are graded according to their seriousness. Fourth-degree felonies are the least severe felonies. The most serious felonies are first-degree, such as murder.

A violation of a final restraining order is a fourth-degree felony under the law in New Jersey. Although it is the lowest degree of felony, if convicted of a restraining order violation, you could face up to 18 months in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Additionally, the penalties for a second or subsequent violation include a jail sentence of at least 30 days. These sentences are mandatory, meaning violating restraining orders is a serious offense, and you should ensure that you follow them.

What Occurs When You Violate a Restraining Order?

A person who violates an order of protection can face fines, jail time, or both. Restraining order violation is most often charged as a misdemeanor, though it may later become a felony under some situations. For instance, if a person is arrested for violating a protection order, and this violation was committed with another crime like vandalism or assault, many jurisdictions will elevate the charges to a felony.

At the misdemeanor level, the aggressor may face up to a year in jail and fines of up to thousands of dollars. At the felony level, the aggressor could serve at least five years or more in prison and considerable fines.

Another example from the state of Masschesutees, If the police witness or have probable cause to believe that the defendant violated a restraining order, they are required to arrest the defendant immediately. An abuse prevention order is a civil order, but violating certain parts of the order can be a criminal offense. Violating the no abuse, no contact, leaving home, staying away from home or work, and surrendering firearms terms of an order are all criminal offenses.

This type of violation is punishable by up to 2.5 years in the House of Corrections. If you are found guilty of this crime, you can be on probation or go to jail. A criminal conviction (even a continuance without a finding) can impact your ability to retain employment, public housing, or citizenship or even subject you to getting deported.

Furthermore, if you do not pay child support or any other money ordered, the court can hold a hearing to decide if you should be held in contempt for not adhering to this part of the order. If the defendant violates the no abuse, no contact, leaving home, staying away from home or work or surrendering firearms terms of the order, the victim should contact the local police department immediately and provide them with the details of what happened.

How Do You Enforce a Restraining Order?

The person who obtained a restraining order should be prudent about maintaining a copy of the order with them at all times. This way, if the order is violated in any manner, the victim can immediately show the protective order to the police, who respond to the call. For the order to be most effective, the victim has to enforce it strictly. This translates as contacting the police any time the order is violated, even if the contact appears benign.

Failing to file a complaint diligently can make it difficult to enforce the order later. It is crucial to report any incidents between the victim and the aggressor promptly. Typically, authorities cannot act if too much time has passed between the incident and when it was reported. A restraining order is powerful and legally binding. Therefore, the restrained individual may face severe consequences for violating the order.

After the judge signs the protection order, the order is not in effect until a sheriff or deputy delivers a copy of it to the person from whom you are requesting protection. That person will be presented with a copy of all the papers you have filled out. However, you can request a confidential address if you are afraid to reveal it. The restrained person can ask the judge in writing for a hearing for both sides to explain their side of the story to the judge.

You must appear for this hearing. If you fail to do so, the judge will likely dismiss the protection order. However, if the judge sets a hearing, the clerk will notify you about the time and date. The clerk must know how to reach you, especially in these cases where safety is jeopardized.

Why Did I Receive a Charge of Contempt and Another Criminal Charge?

Restraining order violations allow you to get charged with another offense. The restraining order violation is a contempt charge. The other charge can be for a misdemeanor offense or a felony charge. Felonies can include aggravated assault, kidnapping, sexual assault, and other charges.

For instance, you may be charged with contempt of court and simple assault. Therefore, you could face the restraining order violation penalties and the penalties for the charge.

What Are the Penalties for Violating Restraining Order Violations?

A violation of a final restraining order is a fourth-degree felony under some state laws, which implies that you could be jailed for up to 18 months if convicted. If you are also charged with a misdemeanor, you will face massive fines and time in jail. Penalties for a felony charge depend on the degree of the felony. Each state has different systems for charges, fines, and penalties.

How Long Does a Protection Order Last?

According to the Nebraska Courts, an “ex parte” protection order lasts until you go to court. In court, the judge will decide if the protection order will be terminated or continued for one year. If the other party never requests a hearing, the protection order remains in effect for a year.

Keep in mind that a Sexual Assault or Domestic Abuse Protection Order may be renewed for one year and yearly thereafter. Depending on your state, you must file the Petition and Affidavit to Renew that states the reason(s) the renewal is being requested.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

If you know your restraining order is being violated, contact the police immediately to ensure your safety. For any court-related issues, you can seek out a local restraining order lawyer near you to assess your particular situation.

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