More than likely, you’re already aware of the consequences associated with a final restraining order (FRO). That said, you’ll want time to prepare your defense based on the allegations against you. So, what happens if the victim goes to court and claims additional acts of domestic violence at the hearing?
In colloquial terms, the prospect of something like this happening to you catches you off guard. As you most likely know, the process begins with filing a complaint alleging domestic violence. According to NJSA 2C:25-28, this represents a potentially emergent situation addressed by either a municipal court or family court judge.
Based on the circumstances and after cursory judicial review, the court seeks to protect the victim. This means the execution of a temporary restraining order (TRO), based on a domestic violence complaint. This acts as a precursor to a FRO.
If you’re served with a TRO, you already know you need to follow the directives contained it. However, you aren’t required to agree with the allegations made by the victim. You’ll have your chance to dispute them when you appear for the hearing to determine whether a final restraining order is warranted.
NJSA 2C:25-19 defines nineteen separate acts that may represent domestic violence in the state of New Jersey. Meanwhile, proving you are guilty of just one of these criminal offenses accounts for a part of the reason the court may justify the need for a FRO.
According to New Jersey case law, there must also be proof that the victim is in imminent danger, or there appears to be a potential for future abuse. The courts also seek information regarding prior acts of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence and Due Process
In case you were uncertain, you should know that domestic violence laws fall under New Jersey’s criminal statutes. Therefore, the entitlement to due process represents a fundamental right under the United States Constitution.
On May 21, 2019, the New Jersey Appellate Division considered this issue as it relates to domestic violence. Although the decision in BLF v. TGC is unpublished, it provides some interesting insight as it pertains to the parties. Their names are marked with initials to protect their identities.
According to the case history, BLF and TGC only dated for a short time and did so on an “off and on” basis. The record indicates that the couple’s relationship ended after a physical altercation.
At the hearing for consideration of the FRO, BLF testified that she became upset when she walked out of the gym and found TGC approaching the parking lot. It wasn’t the first time the defendant showed up somewhere unexpectedly, and this upset BLF.
Although the plaintiff waited for TGC to come close to her car, she told him she did not want to speak with him. Subsequently, she began to roll up her car window. The defendant pushed down on the window to prevent it from closing.
The two were already engaged in a screaming match at this point. However, BLF testified by this point, TCG was in “absolute rage.” She was scared and began to back out of her parking spot. Meanwhile, TCG grabbed her left forearm and hurt her. BLF submitted photographs documenting evidence of her bruises.
TCG gave a different version of the events. He claimed his arm got stuck in the window and that BLF called him names. Ultimately, she let down the window about a “centimeter” and started driving away. As a result, the defendant fell to the ground.
Predicate Act of Domestic Violence
Ultimately, the court found BLF’s version of the events more credible than her former boyfriend’s rendition. However, the restraining order did not just list the assault as a predicate act of domestic violence. It also added harassment and stalking as predicate acts.
Herein lies the basis for the appeal in this case. When BLF filed the domestic violence complaint, she referenced the physical altercation outlined in the legal opinion. Apparently, during court testimony, she provided details concerning other events. These were not part of the original complaint.
At the FRO hearing, the plaintiff told the court that TCG came uninvited and unannounced on other occasions than the one that ultimately led to the filing of the complaint. However, it appears she did not mention the visits to her home or to restaurants in the court papers.
Since TCG first heard the additional claims during the FRO hearing, he did not have time to prepare his legal defense. The Appellate Division ruled that this denied the defendant his right to due process.
The upper court affirmed the granting of the final restraining order based on assault. Notwithstanding, it reversed the trial court’s findings as far as harassment and stalking. That said, the restraints will stay in place as far as barring TGC’s contact with BLF.
When you need to go to court regarding a restraining order, you need the counsel of an experienced family law attorney. At the Law Offices of Sam Stoia, we understand the alarming nature of domestic violence issues. Contact our office for assistance.