Lewdness as a Predicate Act of Domestic Violence

In New Jersey, a victim of domestic violence can file for a restraining order to protect them from further harm. The courts, however, won't grant restraining orders to everyone––they need sufficient grounds to do so.

One of the main elements required to file for a restraining order in NJ is a “predicate act,” so let's consider what this means.

What Is a Predicate Act of Domestic Violence?

A predicate act is, essentially, the reason a plaintiff files for the restraining order. It's the act that alarms them enough to fear for their safety. A judge can't issue a restraining order unless there's evidence the defendant committed this action.

There are many actions that could qualify as a predicate act, including:

  • Lewdness
  • Harassment
  • Assault
  • Stalking
  • Cyberstalking
  • Criminal trespass
  • Criminal mischief
  • False imprisonment

The plaintiff only needs to prove one predicate act of domestic violence to secure a final restraining order (FRO). So, even if a plaintiff alleges multiple acts of domestic violence at the temporary restraining order (TRO) stage, they only need to prove one.

What Is Lewdness?

Under Section 2C:14-4 of the N.J.S.A, lewd behavior is when someone performs an offensive act that could affront someone who doesn't want to see it. For example, it's lewd for one person to flash their genitals at another person who doesn't consent to the act.

Lewdness can either be a disorderly persons offense or a fourth-degree crime, depending on the act's severity. For example, if someone exposes their genitals to a minor or someone with a mental illness, it's a more serious charge than a disorderly persons offense.

Lewdness allegations can have real long-term consequences for the defendant. You need a skilled attorney on your side immediately if you're facing such charges.

How Do You Prove Lewd Behavior?

The plaintiff must prove:

  • The defendant exposed their intimate parts for a lewd purpose; and
  • A reasonable person would be affronted or alarmed by the defendant's conduct.
  • There are various defenses available to lewd conduct allegations. Here are some examples.
  • The defendant didn't reasonably expect anyone else to see the act. For example, they performed the act in private.
  • The defendant didn't expect the plaintiff to see the act or to be offended by it
  • There's insufficient evidence to prove the act took place

If a judge finds someone acted lewdly and grants a restraining order based on these actions, they could face severe long-term consequences. A skilled attorney can advise what defenses may be available and how to proceed with the case.

When Might the Court Grant a Final Restraining Order?

The court may grant a final restraining order if:

  • The plaintiff has standing to bring the case, e.g., they're a spouse or ex-romantic partner
  • There's a history of domestic violence
  • The order is necessary to protect the plaintiff's wellbeing and safety

So, for example, even if there's an instance of lewd behavior, the court may not grant a restraining order unless it's the best way to protect the plaintiff from further harm.

How Do I File for a Restraining Order in NJ?

If you're worried about someone's actions and you wish to file a restraining order based on lewdness, here's a summary of the process.

  • File for a temporary restraining order by completing the relevant forms at the local courthouse.
  • Your TRO application must include sufficient information to support your claim, e.g., if you're alleging lewdness, you must provide details, including what happened and where.
  • If the judge decides, based on your application, to grant a TRO, you'll receive a hearing date for a final restraining order. If you haven't already instructed an attorney, you should do so before the hearing.
  • At the hearing, your attorney will argue your case and set out why the order is appropriate. They will also specify what relief you seek, e.g., you want the defendant to stop contacting you or to stay a certain distance away from you.
  • If you can prove lewd behavior, and if the judge agrees your safety depends on the order, the court will grant the FRO.

It's not always easy to prove lewdness or secure a restraining order, so you need an attorney on your side to present your case effectively. The more evidence you have, such as witness testimonies, the better.

What Happens if You're Facing a Restraining Order?

Are you defending a lewdness accusation? You need legal representation, so you're not facing these charges alone. However, in the meantime, here's an outline of what you can expect.

  • If the court grants the plaintiff a temporary restraining order, you will be served with the appropriate documents by law enforcement. You will also be advised of the final hearing date, which is your chance to make your case.
  • Depending on the order's terms, law enforcement may take certain actions, e.g., removing your firearms or weapons. You may also be asked to leave the family home, if applicable.
  • If you receive a TRO, you must instruct an attorney immediately to preserve your rights and learn what defenses are open to you. They'll also represent you at the final hearing.
  • At the final hearing, your attorney can set out any relevant defenses against lewd behavior allegations. However, it's on the plaintiff to show, based on the preponderance of evidence, that the incident took place, so the burden of proof lies with the other side here.

Is a Restraining Order a Civil or Criminal Matter?

If the courts grant a restraining order based on, for example, lewd behavior, it's a civil matter. The order does not become a criminal matter unless the defendant violates the terms.

Handle a Domestic Violence Charge in NJ

Whether you're the plaintiff or the defendant, you need comprehensive legal representation to handle a domestic violence issue. Our team has the experience necessary to support you, no matter the circumstances. Call the Lento Law Firm now for help on 888-535-3686, whether you're filing a claim or defending a restraining order.

Contact a Family Law Attorney Today!

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience practicing Family Law in New Jersey. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Family Law Attorney Joseph Lento will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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