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The Tormey Law Firm NJ Restraining Order Guide Part 8 – What happens if I violate a restraining order in New Jersey?

What happens if I violate a restraining order NJ

Violations of Restraining Order NJ

The violation of a restraining order in New Jersey is a criminal offense. In fact, depending on the nature of the act that violates the restraining order, anyone who violates a restraining order will be charged with either a fourth degree crime or a disorderly persons offense. Then, you will be required to appear at the New Jersey Superior Court in the County that charged you with contempt and if you cannot afford an attorney, you will be permitted to complete an application for a public defender. As with all criminal offenses, a contempt charge is serious and subjects the defendant to imprisonment, fines, and having a permanent criminal record. If you are charged with contempt, the criminal defense attorneys at the Tormey Law Firm are available to explain the charges to you and defend your case.

Violation of a Restraining Order in NJ – NJSA 2C:29-9(b)

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-30, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (“PDVA”) establishes that a violation of either a temporary restraining order or final restraining order is a crime. Specifically, under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9(b), a person is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree if that person purposely or knowingly violates any provision in a restraining order entered under the provisions of the PDVA when the conduct which constitutes the violation is a separate crime or a disorderly persons offense. In all other cases, a person is guilty of a disorderly persons offense if that person knowingly violates a restraining order. That is, if the violation of the restraining order is not in itself a crime or an offense, then the defendant will be charged with a disorderly persons offense. For example, if the defendant on a restraining order merely sends a text message to the plaintiff, the act of sending the text message is not an independent criminal offense and the defendant will be charged with the disorderly persons offense of contempt. However, if the defendant assaults the plaintiff, the act of assault is an independent criminal offense and the defendant will be charged with assault and fourth degree contempt.

What will happen if I violate a restraining order in NJ?

You will be arrested on a warrant complaint and taken to the county jail. Then, a Judge will review your bail in 24-48 hours to determine whether or not you will be released from jail while the case is pending. If the State does not move for detention, then you will be released from jail at the bail hearing with certain conditions which can include virtual reporting to probation, in person reporting to probation, house arrest, curfew, etc. If the State moves for detention, then you will remain in jail until the detention hearing is conducted (usually within 5 days). At the detention hearing, the State will ask the Judge to hold you in jail while the case is pending because there is a risk of more criminal activity and/or there is a risk that you will fail to appear in court when released. The Judge will consider the following at the detention hearing before rendering a decision:

  • Defendant’s prior criminal history (if any)
  • Any pending charges other than this case
  • Any failures to appear in court
  • The Defendant’s ties to the community
  • Employment
  • The Public Safety Assessment (PSA)
  • The nature of the charges

The burden is on the State to show that there are no conditions where the defendant can be released and the Judge can ensure that the community is safe and the defendant will appear in court.

Penalties for a Restraining Order Violation in NJ

Under New Jersey’s criminal code, a fourth degree crime is punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and 18 months in prison; and a disorderly persons offense is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and 6 months in jail. However, under N.J.S.A. 2C:25-30, the PDVA also mandates that any person convicted of a second or subsequent disorderly persons domestic violence contempt offense shall serve a minimum term of not less than 30 days in jail, without exception. Accordingly, if you are charged with contempt for violating a restraining order, you are facing severe penalties including a mandatory 30 days in county jail if you have been previously convicted of contempt of a restraining order. The domestic violence attorneys at the Tormey Law Firm have defended countless clients against allegations of contempt and if you have been charged with contempt, they are ready to put their skills to work defending you.

Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI)

If you have no prior criminal history and you have never used a diversion program before in NJ (such as PTI, conditional discharge or conditional dismissal), you should be eligible to apply for PTI on your case. PTI is a first time offender program which allows a defendant to be placed on probation with certain conditions for a certain period of time. If the defendant completes all of the conditions properly then the charges are completely dismissed at the end of the probationary period.

NOTE: If you are admitted into PTI and successfully complete it, the criminal charges against you are dismissed. However, there is still a record of the arrest. Under NJ law, you are eligible to expunge that arrest six (6) months after you complete PTI.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Contempt Charges in NJ

FAQ: Is contempt for violating a civil restraining order in NJ considered criminal? Yes. Contempt is a criminal charge in NJ punishable by fines, probation, jail time and a permanent criminal charge on your record if convicted. 

FAQ: Where will my contempt case be heard? In the Family Division of the Superior Court in the county where your contempt violation was issued.

FAQ: Will my contempt case be held before a jury? In most cases no. Because contempt is usually a disorderly persons offense in NJ, these trials will be held before a Judge, not a jury. However, if you do have other charges that are felonies (indictable) related to your case, then there must be a jury.

Visit Our Offices

With offices in Hackensack, Morristown, Newark, Middletown, and New Brunswick, our lawyers can represent you anywhere in New Jersey and are available immediately to assist you at (908)-336-5008

Hackensack / Bergen County

254 State Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601

  • 201-556-1570
  • 201-556-1572
Hackensack Office

Morristown / Morris County

60 Washington St Suite 200A,
Morristown, NJ 07960

  • 908-336-5008
  • 201-556-1572
Morristown Office

Newark / Essex County

1 Gateway Center Suite 2600
Newark, NJ 07102

  • 201-654-3464
  • 201-556-1572
Newark Office

for a free initial consultation Contact the Tormey Law Firm

Travis J. Tormey is a distinguished member of the legal community and a respected legal resource on domestic violence. He has been featured in a variety of prominent publications and media outlets, including CBS radio, Aol News, the Asbury Park Press,, and the Daily Record. Mr. Tormey has also been recognized as one of the the top criminal attorneys under 40 years of age by the National Trial Lawyers Association and the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys. Whether representing victims or the wrongly accused, Travis remains passionately committed to protecting the rights of the innocent.

Areas we serve

The Tormey Law Firm LLC handles restraining order cases in Bergen County (Hackensack), Morris County (Morristown), Passaic County (Paterson), Union County (Elizabeth), Hudson County (Jersey City), Middlesex County (New Brunswick), Somerset County (Somerville), Sussex County (Newton), Essex County (Newark), Hunterdon County (Flemington), Mercer County (Trenton), Monmouth County (Freehold), Warren County (Belvidere), Ocean County (Toms River), Burlington County (Mount Holly), and throughout NJ.

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