Violations of Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO) and Final Restraining Orders (FRO) Are Criminal Acts and Heard by A Family Judge
Appellate Docket No.: A-1881-18
Decided April 28, 2021
Submitted by New Jersey Family Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent published opinion, the Appellate Division of New Jersey reviewed a trial court’s dismissal of a Final Restraining Order (FRO) contempt charge when defendant was seen outside of the victim’s home and ran when he was spotted.
In State v. D.O.P., defendant had an “on and off” relationship with I.G. from 2012 to 2013 while they were in high school. I.G. obtained a FRO against defendant which barred him from her Cherry Hill residence and place of employment. In addition, the FRO prohibited defendant from I.G.’s father’s residence in Camden.
At the time of trial, I.G.’s home was located on a cul-de-sac. On August 29, 2018, as she was returning home from work with her husband, I.G. saw defendant standing across the street, pointing at her house. Defendant fled when he saw I.G., who then called the police. A criminal-summons was subsequently filed against defendant charging him with contempt.
At trial, I.G. testified that defendant was approximately ten feet away from her and “as soon as [defendant] saw [her] vehicle, he took off running.” She also stated that defendant had previously visited her at the Cherry Hill address when they were dating. I.G.’s husband also testified and corroborated her version of the August 2018 incident
Defendant acknowledged that I.G. had a FRO against him and admitted that he was on I.G.’s street on August 29, 2018, approximately nine days after he was released from prison. He explained, however, that his appearance in front of I.G.’s house was inadvertent. He testified that he was going to see his aunt at a local hospital but missed the correct bus stop. Defendant stated that when he got off the bus, he obtained directions for the hospital from his cellphone, which directed him to the street where I.G. lived.
Defendant denied knowing that I.G. lived on the street and stated he did not see her or her husband that day. He explained that during their relationship, I.G. did not live at that location and he believed it was her grandmother’s house. He testified that when they were dating, I.G. lived with her father in Camden. Defendant acknowledged, however, that he had previously been at I.G.’s current residence when he picked her up for the high school prom.
The judge found I.G. and her father to be credible. Their stories were consistent and logical. The judge did not find defendant credible, as he contradicted himself by saying he did not know I.G. lived there. In addition, fleeing the area when I.G. spotted him was indicative of his guilt. The judge found that defendant was guilty of contempt of the FRO in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29- 9(b)(2) beyond a reasonable doubt.
Defendant appealed and the Appellate Division affirmed for substantially the same reasons.
Violations of Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO) and Final Restraining Orders (FRO) are criminal acts, and although they are heard by a family judge, the defendants have all rights of criminal defendants and the State must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. A defendant is guilty of contempt if he or she purposely or knowingly violates any provision of the TRO or FRO. A person acts knowingly with respect to the nature of his conduct or the attendant circumstances if he is aware that his conduct is of that nature, or that such circumstances exist, or he is aware of a high probability of their existence.
At Hark & Hark, we represent clients in Superior Court for criminal matters like the present case for violations of restraining orders. Violations of restraining orders carry harsh consequences, including jail time. We vigorously defend our clients by fighting to uphold their constitutional rights, and ensure law enforcement follow proper procedures to legally make an arrest. If you are being accused of violating an FRO or TRO, contact us immediately.
We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing criminal charges similar to this circumstance, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any town 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.