WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
Domestic violence is a crime under the law. Domestic Violence means the occurrence of one or more of the following acts committed against a victim by an adult or an emancipated minor: assault, burglary, criminal mischief, criminal restraint, terroristic threats, criminal sexual contact, criminal trespass, false imprisonment, harassment, kidnapping, lewdness, sexual assault, stalking.
*Emancipated minor means a person whole under 18 years of age but who has been married, has entered military service, has a child or is pregnant, or has been legally declared by a court or administrative agency to be emancipated.
WHAT IS A RESTRAINING ORDER?
It is a Court Order which is intended to protect you from further harm from someone who has hurt you; or to keep the abuser from the scene of the violence, which may include your home, place of work, or apartment. It is a civil order, and it does not give the defendant (the abuser) a criminal record. You have a right to a TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays. This civil TRO prohibits your abuser from further contact or harassment. Within 10 days a hearing will be set before a judge of the Family Court in Elizabeth.
WHAT DOES A RESTRAINING ORDER DO?
If you are a victim of domestic violence, a judge can sign an order of protection that requires the abuser to obey the law. The abuser can be ordered not to have any contact with you, in person or by phone, at home, work, or almost anywhere you ask the court to put in the order. The order against contact may also protect other people in your family. The court can order the abuser to leave the house or apartment that you and the abuser share, even if it is in the abuser’s name. The judge can order the police to escort the abuser to remove personal items from the residence or shared place of business, so that the police protects you during any necessary contact. The judge has the power under the law to order anything else that will help to protect you, as long as you agree to it.
WHO CAN GET A RESTRAINING ORDER?
A victim of domestic violence can obtain a Restraining Order. A “victim of domestic violence” means a person protected by the law and shall include any person who has been subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or any other person who is a present or former household member and where the victim is 18 years of age or older or who is an emancipated minor. A victim, of any age, who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has a child in common, or if the victim is pregnant by a man who she says will be the father of the child when the pregnancy is carried to term is also covered by this law. A victim, of any age, also includes any person who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship.
HOW DO YOU FILE A RESTRAINING ORDER?
Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., except on a holiday, you can go to the Domestic Violence Unit of the Family Division Superior Court in Elizabeth and apply for the order. If it is after hours a holiday, or a weekend, you can go to your local police department to obtain an order. They can call a judge to get an order that starts immediately. You will be asked to speak to the judge by telephone, If English is not a language you usually speak, you may want to bring a friend with you to interpret. An interpreter should be provided for you any time you are scheduled to appear in court, but might not be available at the police station.
HOW LONG DOES THE ORDER REMAIN IN EFFECT?
When you first get protection under the law it is only temporary. The order is called a T.R.O. for Temporary Restraining Order. You must return to court on the date indicated in the T.R.O., which will be about 10 days later. Both you and the abuser will be asked to appear in court on that date. During the 10-day period the police or Sheriff’s Office will serve the abuser with a copy of the order, so the abuser will know when the hearing is. Keep a copy of the order with you and give a copy to the police in any town where you think the abuser might bother you.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF THE ORDER IS VIOLATED?
CALL THE POLICE. For some violations (having contact with you or coming to the house, for example) or if the abuser violated the order by committing a crime, (for example, stalking you, harassing you, or trespassing) the local police must sign a criminal complaint for contempt.
CAN I FILE CRIMINAL CHARGES?
You can file criminal charges against the abuser for acts of domestic violence, because they are all crimes. Criminal charges can only be filed at the local police department, and they will usually be heard at the local municipal court. For very serious crimes, the county prosecutor may take your case to state criminal court. You do not have to file criminal charges, but the law does allow you to file them if you choose, even if you also get a restraining order. You have a year after any incident to file criminal charges. The police can also file charges on their own and must do so when you show signs of injury or if a weapon was used. If the abuser is found guilty of the criminal charges, the court can impose fines, probation, or even jail as punishment.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The court will give you a copy of the order. CARRY IT WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES. If the abuser does not obey the order, CALL THE POLICE. The police have to arrest an abuser who violates any part of the order that protects you from threats or violence. You have the right to police protection. If you carry your order with you at all times, it will be easier for the police to understand your current situation. If you lose your order, or it gets destroyed, return to the court and obtain another copy.