Most people have some level of familiarity with restraining orders, especially if they ever been a victim of domestic violence, or know someone who has been a victim of domestic violence. It's a great form of protection in theory: a court mandated order that prohibits an alleged attacker from having any contact with the victim, and in some cases, the victim's family and friends. Of course, it's not that simple in practice, since no court order can physically prevent someone from approaching another person. This realization leaves victims wondering what legal recourse, if any, are available should their attacker violate the restraining order.
It's extremely important for victims to understand that there are legal penalties for violating a restraining order, regardless of whether or not criminal charges were filed against the attacker. Even if your case was only addressed at the family level, restraining orders are court mandated sanctions. Those who violate court mandated orders are in contempt of court for as long as the order remain active. Thus, it is not a sufficient defense to argue that the other party initiated the contact, or consented to being contacted. Until the court formally approves the dissolution of a restraining order, purposely or knowingly violating its terms is a fourth degree offense, under the provisions of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991.
When an individual violates a restraining order, he or she will be arrested and brought before the judge for an initial appearance. The purpose of this hearing is to determine the nature of the violation, and whether it is an indictable or non-indictable offense. The judge will remind the defendant of his or her right to remain silent, and the right to retain counsel. If indigent, the defendant has a right to request free representation from a public defender. The right to not incriminate oneself and to seek legal representation is absolutely essential to a criminal proceeding. These rights are so important that the defendant's answer to whether they wish to speak to an attorney is recorded in the complaint. If the defendant advises that he or she is indigent, and does not specifically refuse counsel, he or she will be directed to complete an application for the services of a public defender.
Because a fourth degree offense is classified as a crime, penalties may include a jail term of up to 30 days, even for first time offenses. It should also be noted that penalties apply to violations of emergency and temporary restraining orders, in addition to final restraining orders. For second and subsequent offenses, a jail term of 30 days is mandatory, regardless of the circumstances. A jail term, followed by a criminal record, are very serious consequences which can lead to numerous long-term disruptions throughout your life, which is why it's important to seek guidance from an experienced attorney. For more information on the enforcement of restraining orders in New Jersey, please speak with the attorneys of Villlani & DeLuca, P.C.