Violations of Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO) And Final Restraining Orders (FRO) Are Criminal Acts
Appellate Docket No.: A-4228-19T1
Decided January 19, 2021
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
In a recent published opinion, the Appellate Division of New Jersey reviewed a trial court’s dismissal of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) contempt charge when defendant spoke directly into a “Nest” home security camera knowing the victim could see the footage.
In State v. EJ.H., Issued on January 31, 2020, the TRO prohibited defendant from “having any oral, written, personal, electronic, or other form of contact or communication with [Irene].” The TRO also limited defendant’s parenting time with the couple’s daughter to supervised visitation by two adult family members, who were preapproved by Irene, and required defendant to “have the Nest cameras on at all times.” The TRO was issued based upon allegations of an incident that occurred on November 21, 2019 and the couple’s prior history of domestic violence.
Less than one month after the entry of the TRO, on February 23, 2020, Irene filed the complaint at issue, claiming defendant “spoke directly to her via the court[-]mandated N[est] camera during his supervised visitation of their minor daughter.” As alleged in the complaint, defendant “stopped speaking to his parents” then “looked directly at the camera and stated, ‘Oh I’m sorry I wasn’t nice to you. Good reason to keep my daughter from me for three months, because I wasn’t nice to you.'” Irene further reported defendant “then made a lewd gesture at the camera.”
On July 7, 2020, defendant agreed to plead guilty as charged; in exchange the State recommended a probationary term, to be served concurrently with the probationary term defendant was serving. During his plea allocution, defendant acknowledged the TRO required the Nest camera’s “active” operation during his parenting time. Defendant acknowledged that he should not have done it and that it was likely Irene was could have been watching. The
Concerned defendant’s communications were not made “in person” but rather via “a video camera that was ordered to be placed into a home,” the trial judge recessed briefly, reviewed the TRO, and conferred with the issuing judge. Following colloquy with counsel, the judge dismissed the complaint, concluding the order did not place defendant “on notice that while he’s in his house, in his living room with his family, he’s not allowed to ‘flip the bird’ or curse or yell.”
The State appealed the denial of the violation. The Appellate Division reversed, ruling that defendant knew there was a high probability that Irene could be watching. Further, defendant consented to the Nest security system in his home for terms of supervised parenting, knowingly inviting Irene to view portions of his life. The contact through the Nest was prohibited contact under the TRO.
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.