Reversed: Entry of a Final Restraining Order (FRO); Court Failed to Inform the Consequences of an FRO And Right to an Attorney
Docket No. A-2804-20
Decided April 25, 2022
Submitted by New Jersey Family Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent published decision the Appellate Division of New Jersey reversed any entry of a Final Restraining Order (FRO) because the trial court failed to instruct the defendant as to the consequences of an FRO and his right to an attorney.
In A.A.R., Plaintiff commenced this action based on allegations that defendant assaulted her by punching her in the mouth and shoving her into the side of his car. That account was corroborated by plaintiff’s boyfriend, who witnessed the assault. Defendant filed a cross-complaint alleging domestic violence against plaintiff.
Neither party was represented by counsel at trial. At the beginning of the FRO hearing, the judge asked defendant if he was ready to proceed with trial, and defendant answered in the affirmative. The judge did not inform defendant of his right to retain counsel, or of the serious consequences that could ensue if an FRO was entered against him prior to trial.
At the conclusion of the trial at which plaintiff, defendant, and plaintiff’s boyfriend testified, the judge rendered detailed findings of fact and entered an FRO in plaintiff’s favor. The judge also dismissed defendant’s cross-complaint. It was only at this point that the judge detailed the consequences of the FRO, including the fact that defendant’s fingerprints and photographs would be included in the New Jersey Domestic Violence Registry. As the judge imposed those consequences, defendant stated “I feel like . . . [a]t this point, I’m going to need a lawyer[.]” The judge, however, denied defendant’s request because he “already heard the case.”
Defendant appealed and the Appellate Division reversed the entry of the FRO, finding the Court failed to instruct the Defendant as to the consequences of an FRO and his right to an attorney. Accordingly, because of this failure, Defendant was entitled to a new trial.
The case is important to understand Courts must inform both parties as to the consequences of an FRO and their right to an attorney. The consequences of an FRO include:
- Any contact with Plaintiff is a criminal charge of contempt. Two or more contempt convictions results in a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail;
- Defendant is fingerprinted and put on a domestic violence registry with other abusers;
- There is no expiration to the FRO, it is permanent;
- Defendant is prohibited from owning or possessing any weapons including firearms. Firearms currently in possession of Defendant are forfeited including Firearms ID Card (FID card);
- Because of the firearm prohibition, employment in law enforcement and military may become impossible;
- If Defendant was residing with Plaintiff, the Defendant could be permanently removed from the home;
- Employment in certain jobs like daycares in NJ are forbidden;
- Custody may be affected;
- International travel could be restricted. TSA will frisk Defendant for each flight;
- Professional licensures (nursing, law, accounting licenses etc.) could be affected; and
- Requests for housing could be denied solely on the basis of the FRO with no other criminal history;
If you have a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against someone else or against yourself, contact the experienced attorneys at Hark & Hark today. Furthermore, if you have recently had an FRO put against you or have been denied entry of an FRO and you believe you may have grounds to appeal, contact Hark & Hark, we help clients with prenups, divorce, custody, domestic violence, child support, alimony, adoptions and more.
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We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing domestic violence charges similar to this circumstance, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties. We represent clients in all towns in New Jersey, 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.