Domestic Violence and the Criminal Court
Separate from the Final Restraining Order process, you or the police may also file criminal charges against the abuser because acts of domestic violence are also criminal acts. The purpose of a Final Restraining Order is for the safety of the victim. The purpose of criminal charges is to hold the abuser criminally accountable for the abuse. If the police observe that you have been injured, they should arrest the abuser.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ARE STRAINING ORDER AND A CRIMINAL COMPLAINT?
Restraining Order: When you apply for a Temporary Restraining Order, you are asking the court for protection from your abuser. If the abuser violates the non-contact portion of the Temporary or Final Restraining Order, the abuser may be immediately arrested and brought to court. However, the issuance of a Temporary or Final Restraining Order does not give the abuser a criminal record and does not cause the abuser to go to jail unless the abuser violates the order.
Criminal Complaint: A criminal complaint accuses the abuser of committing a crime. If the abuser is convicted, the court may punish the abuser by putting the abuser in jail, placing the abuser on probation, requiring the abuser to attend a batterers treatment program, pay a fine, or perform community service.
WILL FILING CRIMINAL CHARGES PROTECT ME?
After criminal charges have been filed, the abuser may be released from custody or may be held in jail until the criminal trial. The abuser’s release may include prohibiting the abuser from having any contact with you, BUT THIS IS NOT A RESTRAINING ORDER. If the abuser does contact you, you must have a Temporary or Final Restraining Order with you to show to the police. Therefore, it is very important that you obtain a Restraining Order with your name on it from Family Court and carry it with you at all times.
IF CRIMINAL CHARGES ARE FILED, WHAT KIND OF NOTICE CAN I EXPECT TO RECEIVE?
You will receive a notice in the mail about the location of the court and the time and date you are to appear. Because you may receive mail from both Family and Criminal Courts, make sure you read the notice carefully so that you know which court to attend on which date. For more information, contact the prosecutor handling the criminal charge.
You may also contact the New Jersey Domestic Violence Legal Helpline toll free at 800-403-2111 to speak to a domestic violence attorney that can help you understand your paperwork.
WILL I NEED A LAWYER TO HANDLE THESE PROCEDURES?
You do not need your own lawyer in Criminal Court if you are the victim. You can contact the prosecutor if you have any questions. However, if a criminal complaint has also been filed against you, then you may need or want to have your own lawyer.
For contact information for the prosecutor’s office in your area, go to our Helpful Resources page.