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What Happens at a Final Restraining Order (FRO) Hearing?

November 4, 2020 by

What Happens at a Final Restraining Order (FRO) Hearing?

When someone has filed a domestic violence complaint against you, the court will issue a temporary restraining order against you and schedule a final restraining order hearing. Assuming that the case has not been dismissed or otherwise resolved between you and the plaintiff, the family part of the superior court will hold an FRO hearing. An FRO hearing functions much like a civil trial. However, FRO hearings are decided by a judge, not a jury. In order to issue a final restraining order, the judge will need to find two elements:

  1. A predicate act of domestic violence has occurred.
  2. A final restraining order is necessary for the plaintiff’s protection.

The plaintiff bears the burden of proof on both elements and must present evidence and witnesses in support of his or her claim for an FRO. A plaintiff must meet the “preponderance of the evidence” burden of proof. In other words, he or she must prove it is more likely than not that the allegations are true. You will have the opportunity to review the plaintiff’s evidence and cross-examine witnesses. You will also have the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses of your own, whom the plaintiff may also choose to cross-examine. If the judge finds that the plaintiff has met his or her burden of proof on both elements, the trial court will issue the final restraining order. You should not go into an FRO hearing without an experienced attorney on your side. If you have an FRO issued against you, you will be fingerprinted and listed on a domestic violence registry. You will also lose your right to carry a firearm. Schedule a free, confidential case evaluation with a domestic violence attorney from The Law Office of Jason A. Volet to learn more about your legal options now.

What Is the Difference Between a Restraining Order and a Final Restraining Order?

A “restraining order” typically refers to the temporary restraining order (TRO) that is often issued by the trial court when the plaintiff files his or her domestic violence complaint. The defendant against whom the TRO is issued is not entitled to be heard by the trial court or present evidence before the TRO is issued. In addition, a trial court may order as part of the TRO that any weapons belonging to the defendant be seized by law enforcement. The trial court is required to hold a hearing within 10 days of issuing a TRO to determine whether to issue a final restraining order. The defendant is entitled to be heard and present a defense at the FRO hearing. If the court determines it necessary, it will issue an FRO, which makes the protections of the temporary restraining order permanent.

How Long Does a Final Restraining Order Last?

An FRO lasts until the victim either requests the court lift the order, or the defendant files an application to terminate the order and proves that the FRO is no longer needed for the plaintiff’s protection. In both cases, the court will likely order a hearing to determine whether to lift the FRO.

What Happens If the FRO Is Violated?

A defendant who violates an FRO may do so inadvertently, or he or she may violate the terms of the order in response to contact from the plaintiff. If you have an FRO entered against you, you should remember that the FRO is the court’s order, not the plaintiff’s order. So you should ignore any efforts by the plaintiff to initiate contact with you, as responding to those efforts constitutes a violation of the FRO. If you violate the terms of your FRO, you can be charged with criminal contempt, which is normally charged as a disorderly persons offense. However, if you are accused of committing a separate criminal offense while violating the FRO (such as stalking or harassing the plaintiff), you can be charged with a fourth-degree crime. You can also be charged with the separate criminal offense.

Can a Person Go to Jail for Violating a Final Restraining Order in New Jersey?

Yes. Criminal contempt for violating an FRO can result in a disorderly persons conviction that can carry a sentence of up to six months in jail. If you committed a separate criminal offense in violating your FRO, you can be convicted of a fourth-degree crime, which carries a potential sentence of up to 18 months in prison. You could face additional penalties if you are convicted of the separate criminal charge. Many domestic violence crimes are charged as third- and second-degree crimes, which carry sentences of three to five years and five to 10 years, respectively.

Can an FRO Be Appealed?

Yes. If you believe that the trial court committed an error of fact or law in issuing a FRO against you, you have the right to appeal the trial court’s decision to the appellate division. In addition, after time has passed and you believe the plaintiff no longer requires an FRO for protection, you can file an application with the issuing court to have the FRO lifted.

Does an FRO Show Up on Someone’s Record in NJ?

Yes. Once you have an FRO issued against you, you will be fingerprinted, and your information placed into the state domestic violence registry. This registry is accessible by a wide variety of law enforcement agencies and background search services. As a result, having an FRO issued against you can impact your ability to secure employment or housing and cause delays and issues with travel, especially at the airport. If you’ve had a final restraining order taken out against you and you have questions about your rights, obligations, and legal options, contact The Law Office of Jason A. Volet today. Our restraining order attorney can review your case and answer your questions in a free and confidential consultation.

About the Author

Jason A. Volet
Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a criminal trial attorney, Jason A. Volet focuses his practice exclusively on criminal and municipal defense in New Jersey and New York. He earned his B.A. in political science from Rutgers College in 1995 and his J.D. from the Hofstra University School of Law in 1998. Mr. Volet began his career in the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, where he gained extensive experience prosecuting both juvenile and adult offenders. Now, as a criminal defense attorney, he uses that experience to fight for the rights of individuals who have been charged with a crime.

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