When a Restraining Order Has Nothing to Do with Domestic Violence
You can’t shake the feeling that something terrible is about to happen to you. All things considered, your fears are entirely warranted. That said, you don’t meet the qualifications for a restraining order under NJ’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991. Does that mean you can’t ask the court for protection?
While it’s true that restraining orders are most commonly executed in conjunction with domestic violence, other circumstances also warrant them. However, you should first understand what constitutes a qualifying relationship in terms of domestic violence.
Case in point. If you date someone and they commit a predicate act of domestic violence, the court may consider your application for a restraining order. However, what happens if someone relentlessly pursues you and you’ve avoided their advances, and they start stalking you?
Restraining Order: Stalking
It can happen. Take for example the story of the businessman who leaves his Jersey City apartment every morning and heads over to Journal Square. He’s intent on making it big down on Wall Street.
Although the man’s head is almost always buried in his phone or newspaper, he starts to notice a woman following him. After a couple of days, he doesn’t make much of it when he looks over and sees the same person sitting next to him on the PATH train.
The two strike up a conversation and the young stockbroker learns that his new female “friend” lives in his neighborhood (or, so she says.) After they exchange names, he’s surprised to find that she’s added him as a social media contact.
No big deal, at first; however, strange things start to happen. The woman somehow finds his cellphone number and starts calling him in the middle of the night. She leaves little packages by his front door.
The man changes his walking route to Journal Square. Nevertheless, the woman finds her way to stare at him while he’s on the PATH train. Admittedly, he not only feels stalked; the businessman wonders if this could get dangerous.
Since he still hasn’t blocked her on social media, the man sends her a quick note politely expressing his disinterest and concern. When he comes home from work the next day, he finds a dead rat on his doorstep. He knows it is from his stalker.
If this man and woman were in a relationship, the court would surely entertain a restraining order based on stalking as a predicate act of domestic violence. However, they aren’t dating. Does that mean the gentleman has to live with this behavior?
Stalking Laws in New Jersey
First, you should know that the definition of stalking appears in NJSA 2C:12-10. Whether you’re the male or female in the scenario we described, you have legitimate reasons for concern.
To start with, the law considers stalking to include “repeatedly maintaining a visual or physical proximity to a person.” Two or more occasions counts as repeatedly. However, that’s just part of it. Repeated acts of harassment also represent stalking in some cases.
The big issue comes when the victim suffers from emotional distress. It also matters if the behavior would “cause a reasonable person to fear.”
You should know that stalking is an indictable crime that could come with time behind bars. Additionally, according to NJSA 2C:12-10.1, a stalking conviction acts as the victim’s application for a permanent restraining order.
Restraining Order: Sexual Assault
Not all sexual assault victims fall under the qualified relationships of the Domestic Violence Act. However, that’s not to say that they do not have the right to pursue a protection order.
Under the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA), there are no requirements concerning who can apply for a protective order as a sexual assault victim.
In fact, under Nicole’s Law, the courts may issue or continue a prior restraining order for defendants who were charged with sex offenses under Megan’s Law. Nicole’s Law is named after Nicole Norberto who was raped at the age of 15 by an acquaintance.
When Nicole requested a restraining order, the court clerk informed her that she did not qualify because she was not in a dating relationship with the person who sexually attacked her. Nicole’s advocacy resulted in the laws that allow protection for all sexual assault victims.
Applications for restraining orders critically impact victims and their alleged perpetrators. If you feel you need help obtaining one – or defending against a restraining order, the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone would like to offer you legal counsel. We are just a phone call away. We look forward to helping you during this stressful time.