If you've been the victim of a sex crime, or if you're defending yourself from allegations of a sex crime, you know how complex the criminal justice system can be. If you're the victim, there's often no one advocating on your behalf and ensuring your safety. But there are pathways to keep you safe, including no contact, protective, and restraining orders. If you're the defendant, you'll hear the police and prosecutors telling you that you don't need anyone protecting your rights. You could find yourself defending a protective order without knowing where to turn. No matter how you end up in the system, you need legal guidance. An experienced New Jersey attorney like Joseph D. Lento, who is well versed in family law matters, criminal law, and restraining orders, can help you along the way.
What Is a Protective Order?
Under New Jersey's Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA), a court can issue a civil protective order to keep a victim of sexual violence safe from their assailant. A judge will typically issue an ex parte TRO under SASPA if necessary to protect the victim and keep them safe. The judge must also find that the victim was subject to nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, lewdness, or an attempt to do so. The judge will consider:
- The occurrence of one or more acts of nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, or lewdness, or any attempt at such conduct, against the alleged victim; and
- The possibility of future risk to the safety or well-being of the alleged victim.
N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:14-16 (2016). The judge won't consider:
- The victim's failure to report the crime to the police
- Whether either party was intoxicated
- The victim's failure to leave to avoid sexual contact
- Evidence of the victim's past sexual contact
- The victim's style of dress
- Absence of the sign of any physical injury
See id. at § 2C:14-16(b-c).
As with a civil domestic violence restraining order, a hearing for the FRO typically takes place within ten days. The final protective order will:
- Prohibit the respondent from having contact with the victim; and
- Prohibit the respondent from committing any future act of nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, or lewdness, or any attempt at such conduct, against the victim.
See id. at § 2C:14-16(f). The order can also include provisions:
- Prohibiting the assailant from stalking or following the victim
- Prohibiting the assailant from contacting the victim through an agent or intermediary
- Prohibiting the assailant from harassing or attempting to harass the victim
- Prohibiting the assailant from entering the residence, property, school, workplace, or places frequented by the victim and the victim's family
Restraining Orders for Victims of Sex Crimes
Aside from a protective order, if you're the victim of a sex crime and your assailant is a close family member, spouse, or someone you have a child with, you may also be able to apply for a domestic violence restraining order in the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court in your county.
What Does a Restraining Order Do?
A restraining order issued by the court can prohibit the defendant from contacting or approaching you while it's in force. A restraining order can also:
- Order temporary child custody
- Order financial support
- Order the defendant removed from the home
- Prevent the defendant from possessing or buying firearms
The stakes can be high if you're the defendant in a restraining order action. You'll need an experienced restraining order attorney to guide you through the process.
The Restraining Order Process
First, you'll apply for a temporary order and have an ex parte hearing with a judge. If you are the defendant to a restraining order application, you won't have the right to attend this hearing. If the judge grants the temporary restraining order (TRO), the court will set a hearing for a final restraining order (FRO) in about ten days. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a).
Both parties will have the right to attend this hearing.
To issue a domestic violence FRO for a sex crime, the judge must find:
- The parties have a domestic relationship. A domestic relationship includes current or former spouses, intimate or dating relationships, those with children together, close family members, and those sharing the same household.
- An act of domestic violence occurred. Domestic violence crimes include a long list of violent or stalking crimes, including sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, and sex crimes involving children.
- The need for a restraining order is urgent to prevent future acts of domestic violence.
In many criminal cases, particularly domestic violence or sex crimes, a court will issue a “no-contact order.” A no-contact order prevents the defendant from approaching or contacting the victim as a bail condition. While the no contact order is up to the judge's discretion, the victim of the crime can also ask the court to issue one. If a defendant violates the order, they can face additional criminal charges, forfeiture of jail, and additional jail time.
Hire an Experienced New Jersey Attorney
If you're the victim of a sex crime and you need to begin the protective order process, or if you need to ask a court to enter a no-contact or restraining order, you don't have to go through this process alone. Likewise, if you're defending yourself from allegations of sex crimes, resulting in a restraining order or protective order action against you, the repercussions can be serious, and you need an experienced attorney by your side.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help you. He and the skilled legal team at the Lento Law Firm have years of experience in New Jersey family and criminal defense law. They can help you pursue or defend protective and restraining orders, understanding both sides of the process. Contact the Lento Law Firm online or give them a call today at (888) 535-3686.