WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR WEAPONS WHEN A FRO IS ENTERED?
For law enforcement, the issuance of a Final Restraining Order (FRO) can be a life changing event. Under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19), the purchase, ownership, possession or control of a firearm is prohibited by persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses. Basically, if an FRO is entered against you, you are no longer able to carry a weapon and ultimately cannot continue to do your job.
New Jersey allows victims of domestic violence to seek a restraining order against: 1) a spouse, former spouse, or any other person who is a present or former household member; 2) a former or current dating partner or anyone with whom the victim has had a romantic relationship; or 3) any person with whom the victim has a child in common or anticipates having a child in common, if one of the parties is pregnant.
In New Jersey, proof of predicate act that is the actual offense committed such as assault, stalking, battery, sexual assault and harassment, to name a few is necessary to obtain an FRO. Altogether New Jersey recognizes 19 different crimes that can be used as predicate acts. New Jersey also looks at whether there is a history of domestic violence and whether or not issuing a Final Restraining Order is necessary to protect the person complaining of domestic violence.
Firearm Prohibitions for Persons Subject to Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
As soon as a Temporary Restraining Order is entered, the police will confiscate any and all weapons belonging to the accused. If you are a law enforcement officer, that means for the next 10 days, at least, you will not be able to carry a weapon until a resolution of the domestic violence complaint is reached.
Within 10 days of the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order there will be a hearing to determine whether or not a Final Restraining Order is necessary. It is during this time you might want to contact a law firm such as Citizen Soldier Law to help you defend against a Final Restraining Order. If a Final Restraining Order is entered against you, your weapons will not be returned.
The Lautenberg Amendment
Under the Lautenberg Amendment, those who have a protective order issued by the military or a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence (an FRO) are not allowed to carry or transport a firearm or ammunition. There is no exception for military or law enforcement. Without a weapon, most cannot do their jobs.
New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act
In addition, the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act dictates that weapons seized under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act must be transferred to the county prosecutor’s office where the alleged domestic violence occurred. The prosecutor’s office must then file for a forfeiture of the weapons within 45 days of receipt.
A hearing will then take place in Superior Court to determine whether or not the weapons should be returned. To return the weapons, the Court must find:
- The owner is not subject to any disabilities as stated under N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3c (purchase of firearms); and
- The domestic violence complaint has been dismissed by the person who originally alleged the domestic violence and the prosecutor has determined there is no basis to indict;
- The defendant was found to be not guilty of domestic violence by a court of law;
- The domestic violence situation no longer exists.
Thomas Roughneen and Chris Ann Wright have experience helping both military and law enforcement personnel fight against a Final Restraining Order. Thomas and Chris Ann have been friends since high school and collaborate on domestic violence issues. Thomas is a veteran and has a military and criminal law background while Chris Ann is a Certified Matrimonial Law attorney and has extensive knowledge regarding domestic violence. For more information regarding domestic violence and its possible impact on your employment, call Citizen Soldier Law at 973-937-6010 to set up a consultation.