Appeal From a Final Restraining Order (“FRO”) Entered Against Defendant Based on the Predicate Act of Terroristic Threats

M.W. v. M.B.W.

Docket No. A-1105-21

Decided January 11, 2023

Submitted by New Jersey Family Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal from a final restraining order (“FRO”) entered against him based on the predicate act of terroristic threats.

The parties resided with one another for just over a year and shared one child together. By August 2021, the two no longer shared a home. Defendant texted plaintiff and said that he needed to come to her house, which adjoined his mother’s home, to get tools he needed to repair his mother’s bathroom. Plaintiff did not answer the message because she believed it to be a pretext to allow defendant to enter her home to attempt to engage in sexual relations, which he had done before.

Later that evening, plaintiff was on her front porch when she saw defendant in a truck parked near his mother’s home next door. She observed a woman in the passenger seat. Plaintiff then responded to defendant’s message. Defendant responded to plaintiff’s message stating “talk some shit right now and I’ll do that dumb shit you’ve already accused me of.” Defendant believed that plaintiff had accused him of rape previously. Defendant also called plaintiff as well, but it was unclear if she had picked up or not. Defendant then pulled his truck in front of plaintiff’s home and she was standing on the sidewalk. A woman in the defendant’s truck opened the passenger side door and began to get out of the truck. Plaintiff exclaimed, “if you touch me, I’ll press charges.” Defendant tapped the woman on the shoulder and signaled for her to get back into his vehicle.

Plaintiff then went to a police department nearby and filed a domestic violence complained. She eventually received a temporary restraining order (“TRO”). Thereafter, defendant texted plaintiff stating that she “bought the ass whooping coming to you.”

At the FRO trial, the court determined that defendant made a terroristic threat by threatening to kill plaintiff with the intent to terrorize her. The court concluded that a reasonable person would interpret the statement “about to be forcefully put to sleep” as a threat of death and that the circumstances in which the threat was made reasonably caused plaintiff to believe the threat would be carried out. Based upon a prior act of domestic violence and the predicate act of terroristic threats, the court determined that entry of a FRO was needed to protect plaintiff from immediate danger or to prevent further abuse. Defendant subsequently appealed.

On appeal, defendant contended that the trial court committed legal error by finding that plaintiff established the predicate act of terroristic threats; that the trial court violated defendant’s due process rights by allowing plaintiff to testify about incidents not in the domestic violence complaint; and that the trial court committed during its Silver v. Silver analysis by not considering all the factors of N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29(a)(1) through (6) and by considering evidence not contained in the record.

The Appellate Court of New Jersey found that there was sufficient support for the trial court’s conclusion that defendant threatened plaintiff with death at the hands of the woman she had previously seen in the passenger seat of his truck and that he intended to terrorize M.W. when he made that threat. The court was unpersuaded by defendant’s argument that he cannot be found to have made a terroristic threat without evidence that the woman he used to further his threat also intended to terrorize plaintiff. The court determined that the woman’s presence in defendant’s truck and attempt to exit the vehicle in close proximity to M.W. were orchestrated by defendant to heighten plaintiff’s terror by giving his threat the air of imminency and likelihood. The court felt that there was sufficient support in the record for the trial court to conclude that a FRO is necessary to protect the plaintiff from immediate danger or future abuse. The trial court’s decision was affirmed.

At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients for appeals in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to FRO trials. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of either party in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.



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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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