Recent New Jersey Domestic Violence Decision Limits Broad Restraining Orders

New Jersey Criminal Lawyers Schwartz Posnock

New Jersey Criminal Lawyers should be aware of a recent decision of the Appellate Division in State v. S.K., which limited the scope of an overly broad restraining order issued in Superior Court – Middlesex County, as a result of a domestic violence final hearing. On Janaury 17, 2012, the Appellate Division reversed a conviction for violating a restraining order and remanded the case back to the Family Part in Middlesex County with instrcutions to dismiss the complaint.

In 2005, a final restraining order was issued against S.K. In the written final restraining order, the court barred S.K. from “any other place where the plaintiff is located.”

In 2010, the defendant attended his child’s soccer game. His former wife filed a private criminal complaint for contempt and for violation of the 2005 restraining order. The defendant was convcted and sentenced to time served (one day in jail). On appeal the Court held that the terms of the restraing order were overly broad and virtually impossible to obey. A defendant cannot always predict or know in advance where his ex-spouse may be located. Further, the defendant could not be expected to abandon his lawful presence in a public or other location where his ex-wife choses to be.

The lesson of the S.K. decision is that certain domestic violence restraining orders are overly broad and unconstitutional in that they may be read to require a defendant his abandon first amendment right of association and his right to travel. When defending a domestic violence case in New Jersey, criminal defense lawyers must scrutinize the temporary and final restraining orders to make sure that their client’s rights of travel and association are not impinged.

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