The New Jersey Appellate Division has clarified the meaning of “no communications” orders in prevention of domestic violence final restraining orders (“FRO’s”). In State v. D.G.M. , the trial court found the defendant violated his FRO by using a cellphone to record videos and photos of his ex, “Joan”, while attending their son’s soccer game. The two had a short relationship in 2006, which later resulted in the birth of their son, but Joan eventually secured a FRO against the defendant in 2010 after filing a domestic violence action against him.
The FRO prohibited the defendant from having contact or communication of any kind with Joan. For child-related reasons, the court later amended the FRO, allowing the defendant to communicate with Joan only through the “online family wizard system” or his cellphone. The trial court held that the defendant had violated the FRO’s “no contact” provision by recording Joan at the soccer game.
On appeal, the Appellate Division examined whether taking videos or photos of the plaintiff could be considered prohibited contact under the FRO. They looked to N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29(b)(7), which states that an FRO may prohibit any contact or communication that can cause the victim annoyance or alarm. The court then interpreted what the statute meant by “contact” and “communication” to determine whether either existed in this case and decided the following:
- Contact means initiating any exchange, whether verbal, physical or written.
- Communications means imparting, conveying, or exchanging ideas, knowledge, or information by any means (written, verbal, gesture, etc.).
Here, the court found that the defendant technically violated the provisions of the FRO prohibiting communications by pointing his cellphone camera at her. Under the circumstances, the court applied the doctrine of fair warning, because the defendant did not have notice that such actions would violate the law, nor would he have been able to clearly deduce this from the FRO. As a result, the court determined the defendant here was not in violation.
This is an important finding in a Domestic Violence case, because conviction for violation of a Final Restraining Order constitutes a crime and has other serious consequences for the defendant, possibly including custody and parenting time limitations.
If you have been a victim of domestic abuse; have a restraining order on a former partner, lover or spouse; or have been unjustly accused of domestic violence or violating a DV FRO; then you should promptly contact a Certified Family Law Attorney to help you secure the fullest protections of the law. For a near-term initial consult at our Central Jersey law offices, call Hanan M. Isaacs, P.C., at 609-683-7400, or contact us online today. We will listen to your facts, explain the law, and suggest the best pathways for you to protect yourself and any family members from further abuse. Call today. You will be glad you did