Have you been charged with a domestic violence related crimes such as simple assault, harassment, or terroristic threats. Have you been served with a temporary restraining order. Possibly you are a victim and are searching for a way to protect yourself. I have represented individuals on both sides of the aisle. Regardless, if you are the accused or the abused, there are certain things that you have to be aware of now.
First, if you have been accused of domestic violence, it is imperative that you closely read every piece of paperwork that has been given to you. Here is why. Often, domestic violence matters have two procedurally distinct elements, one criminal and one civil. Here’s what I mean. If you have been served with a temporary restraining order (keep reading even if you haven’t), first check the last page of the order. Read it closely and you will find that you have been assigned a court date for a final restraining order hearing. This date will typically be no more than 10 days from the date of service. This hearing will take place in the county superior court where the alleged incident occurred. The family court will have jurisdiction over this proceeding and it is civil, not criminal court.
Next, look at the first page of the temporary restraining order and locate a section that states whether a criminal action or complaint was issued in connection with the TRO. If it indicates yes, that means that there is also a pending criminal charge against the accused. Depending upon the nature of the offense, this matter will be adjudicated in the criminal court (different court all together) of the county superior court or the local municipal court (depending on the severity of the charge). Even if you have not been served with the criminal complaint, this does no mean that there is no criminal complaint. Trust me, the police will get it to you eventually if it is listed on the TRO. Moreover, you may have a court date scheduled in the criminal court and not even know it.
Sometimes you will be served with the criminal summons/warrant and a TRO at the same time. Or you may be served with only the criminal complaint and receive the TRO a day or two later. Regardless, look at that criminal complaint if you have one, and locate at the bottom of the page the area where your first court date is located.
OK, where does this leave you at this point if you have both criminal charges and a TRO? You have two court dates, one for criminal and one for family court. The hearings will take place at two entirely different locations and the outcome of each is not dependent on the resolution of the other.
This is not to say that you can just be facing criminal charges or just be dealing with a restraining order. The two can exist independent of each other. However, its a good possibility that both are lingering, and the confusion this can create is obvious. Missing court dates, not realizing you have a court date, going to the wrong courthouse, thinking that the case is over when one aspect of the case, ends, warrants for your arrest… The pitfalls go on and on.
These are matters where it is highly advisable that you speak with a lawyer early on in the process to avoid the costly mistakes that can lead to BAD consequences. I can help because I deal with domestic violence cases on an almost daily basis. You need to understand the law, and I can explain it to you. But remember, you also need guidance on the procedural maze that New Jersey’s court administration has created in these instances and I know how to navigate it.