Violation of a Restraining Order

New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney

While a temporary restraining order hearing is civil in nature, violation of a temporary or final restraining order has criminal consequences. In this regard, a violation of a restraining order is a criminal offense under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9 such that a defendant shall be arrested when probable cause or a reasonable basis exists to believe that a violation has occurred. The criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall defend individuals accused of violating restraining orders. Our criminal attorneys are experienced in defending violations and our lead attorney, Jonathan F. Marshall, is a former prosecutor in New Jersey. Please do not hesitate to contact our office as a lawyer with our law firm will be happy to answer your questions and discuss our representing you. Initial consultations are always without charge. The following information is provided to assist you in understanding the law associated with restraining order violations in NJ.

New Jersey Violation of a Restraining Order Law

In accordance with N.J.S.A. 2C:25-30, an individual is deemed to be in contempt and subject to a criminal contempt charge under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9 where he or she violates a temporary or final restraining order. N.J.S.A. 2C:25-31 sets forth the procedure to be followed by the police when probable cause exists to believe that a restraining order violation has occurred and the defendant is to be arrested. N.J.S.A. 2C:25-30 and N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9 provide, in relevant part, as follows:

  • 2C:25-30. Violation of order; contempt proceedings; subsequent offenses
    Except as provided below, a violation by the defendant of an order issued pursuant to this act shall constitute an offense under subsection b. of N.J.S. 2C:29-9 and each order shall so state. All contempt proceedings conducted pursuant to N.J.S. 2C:29-9 involving domestic violence orders, other than those constituting indictable offenses, shall be heard by the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court. All contempt proceedings brought pursuant to P.L.1991, c. 261 (C. 2C:25-17 et seq.) shall be subject to any rules or guidelines established by the Supreme Court to guarantee the prompt disposition of criminal matters. Additionally, and notwithstanding the term of imprisonment provided in N.J.S. 2C:43-8, any person convicted of a second or subsequent nonindictable domestic violence contempt offense shall serve a minimum term of not less than 30 days.
  • 2C:29-9. Contempt.
    b. Except as provided below, a person is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree if that person purposely or knowingly violates any provision in an order entered under the provisions of the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991,” P.L.1991, c. 261 (C.2C:25-17 et al.) or an order entered under the provisions of a substantially similar statute under the laws of another state or the United States when the conduct which constitutes the violation could also constitute a crime or a disorderly persons offense.

Notice & Knowledge of the Restraining Order

A court is required to confirm that the defendant possessed notice of a temporary or final restraining order before determining whether a violation of the order has occurred. Accordingly, where an accused has not been served with a copy of the restraining order or otherwise notified of its existence, he should not be held accountable for a violation. The defense of lack of notice would not apply, however, where a defendant’s lack of knowledge is unreasonably based such as where he or she reasonably knew that the restraining order was in existence but simply claims ignorance to escape accountability.


The penalties to which an individual is exposed for violating a restraining order hinges on the context in which the alleged violation occurred. In this regard, it must be kept in mind that while the domestic violence laws provide for penalties and periods of incarceration, these penalties are in addition to those which would be applicable in the event that the accused committed an independent act of domestic violence. If the accused committed a second-degree, third-degree, or fourth-degree offense in violating the order, for example, aggravated assault, stalking, harassment, simple assault, or terroristic threats, then he or she would be subject to the penalties associated with not only that offense but those applicable under the domestic violence laws contained at N.J.S.A. 2C:25-30 and N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9 (fourth-degree criminal contempt). These laws impose a mandatory period of incarceration of at least 30 days in jail for a second violation of a restraining order and this is a minimum sentence—not a presumptive sentence. In fact, since a violation of a final restraining order is a fourth-degree offense under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9, an individual could be sentenced to jail for up to eighteen (18) months if convicted. The potential period of incarceration only escalates where a second-degree, third-degree, or fourth-degree act of domestic violence is also implicated. Given the significance of these penalties, it is imperative that an individual retain an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to defend them as early on as possible.

Defense Lawyer For Contempt Of A Restraining Order

If you or a loved one has been charged or arrested for violating a temporary restraining order or final restraining order, the lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can assist you. A criminal attorney with our law firm will explore all of your defenses including, but not limited to, whether the restraining order was properly entered and/or served. A conviction for violating a restraining order has significant consequences so we encourage you to consult with a defense lawyer. Our office offers free initial consultations and we would be happy to assist you in defending your Monmouth County, Ocean County, Middlesex County, Union County, Somerset County, Essex County, Mercer County, or Hudson County case.