Sexual Assault Restraining Order vs. Criminal Charges in NJ
Sex Crime Restraining Order Lawyers in New Brunswick, NJ
If you are involved in sexual assault case in New Jersey, it is important to understand the difference between protective orders for sex crime victims and criminal charges for sexual offenses under the law. These are two different legal proceedings and the outcomes can mean different things for both the victim and the accused.
Since the Sexual Assault Survivors Protection Act (SASPA) was enacted, victims of sexual assault and certain other forms of sexual contact in New Jersey can file protective orders in civil court. Previously, a sex crime victim could only file a criminal complaint for sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, or another offense. This would prompt a criminal investigation, police involvement, and undergoing the criminal process. However, there was nothing under New Jersey law to provide protection for sex crimes victims in the form of court orders. Now, there are sex crime protective orders that serve similar functions as domestic violence restraining orders.
If you or a loved one needs assistance with a sexual assault matter in New Jersey, you have come to the right place. The attorneys at the Tormey Law Firm LLC have extensive experience representing clients in final protective order hearings and criminal court for sex crimes. Our team includes former domestic violence and sex crimes prosecutors and seasoned criminal defense lawyers who come together to formulate the best possible strategy for representing our clients. With offices in Hackensack, Morristown, Newark, Collingswood, and Middletown, we serve clients in Bergen County, Morris County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Camden County, and throughout New Jersey. Every week, we help clients in similar situations as you. We understand how taxing this time can be and we will aggressively fight on your behalf with all of the knowledge and experience at our disposal. For a free consultation with a member of our team, contact us anytime at (908)-336-5008 or fill out our online form to begin your conversation.
Sexual Assault Protective Order vs. Criminal Complaint in NJ: What’s the Difference?
SASPA was a crucial legislative development because victims of sexual crimes in New Jersey could not qualify for domestic violence restraining orders if they were not currently or formerly in a dating relationship, married, living with, or had a child with the offender. Now, if a person is subjected to nonconsensual sexual contact by another person, they can choose to file criminal charges, a protective order, or both. Sometimes, victims do not want to deal with the trauma of a criminal investigation and others probing into their life. In these situations, they may choose to file a protective order to prevent the offender from coming in contact with them again.
According to NJSA 2C:14-14, which explains applications for temporary protective orders, a protective order may be sought, and may be issued by the court, regardless of whether criminal charges based on the incident were filed and regardless of the disposition of any such charges. In other words, a person is not required to file criminal charges to obtain a protective order under the Sexual Assault Survivors Protection Act.
A protective order is a civil case, which is adjudicated in the Family Division of the Superior Court. Due to the civil nature of these proceedings, the standard of proof is lower than that of criminal cases. When a person seeks a protective order for a sex crime, the standard of proof is a “preponderance of evidence,” which means more likely than not. On the other hand, when a person is prosecuted in criminal court for a sex crime, the prosecutor must prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Ultimately, the legal requirement to obtain a protective order is less than that to secure a criminal conviction in a sex case in New Jersey.
What Happens if a Final Protective Order is Entered in NJ?
If a final protective order is issued after a hearing in New Jersey Family Court, this is a permanent court order that is effective immediately. A final protective order will:
- Prohibit the defendant from having contact with the victim; and
- Prohibit the defendant from committing any future act of nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, or lewdness, or any attempt at such conduct, against the victim.
A final protective order may also include any of the following provisions:
- Prohibiting the defendant from entering the residence, property, school, or place of employment of the victim or the victim’s family or household members, and requiring the defendant to stay away from any specified place that is named in the order and is frequented regularly by the victim or the victim’s family or household members;
- Prohibiting the defendant from having any contact with the victim or others, including personally or through another party initiating any communication likely to cause annoyance or alarm including, but not limited to, personal, written, or telephone contact, or contact via electronic device, with the victim or the victim’s family members or their employers, employees, or fellow workers; an employee or volunteer of a sexual assault response entity that is providing services to a victim; or others with whom communication would be likely to cause annoyance or alarm to the victim;
- Prohibiting the defendant from stalking or following, or threatening to harm, stalk or follow, the victim;
- Prohibiting the defendant from committing or attempting to commit an act of harassment, including an act of cyber-harassment, against the victim; and any other relief that the court deems appropriate.
If a final protective order is placed in effect, the party subject to the order can be arrested and charged with contempt if they violate any of its requirements.
It is important to note, the penalties associated with a conviction for a sex crime in New Jersey are entirely different than the provisions contained in a protective order. Depending on the specific sex crime the defendant is charged with, they may face a term of incarceration, heavy fines, Megan’s Law sex offender registration, and community supervision for life.
Sexual Assault Protective Order & Criminal Charges Attorneys in Middlesex County, NJ
When dealing with the challenges associated with sexual assault protective orders and criminal charges in NJ, you need an experienced sexual assault attorney you can trust. For additional information and a free consultation, contact The Tormey Law Firm now at (908)-336-5008. You have questions, we have answers.