NJ Criminal Restraint Defense Attorneys

Penalties and Defense for Third Degree Crimes in Violation of NJSA 2C:13-2 Criminal Restraint in New Jersey

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Criminal Restraint Charges in NJ 2C:13-2

Criminal restraint is a serious crime in New Jersey, with the potential for severe penalties including prison time. Violations of the criminal restraint statute, found in NJSA 2C:13-2, can lead to a criminal conviction and a restraining order, as criminal restraint is also considered an act of domestic violence. In general, a person may be charged with criminal restraint in New Jersey for illegally restraining another person in a manner that creates a threat of serious physical harm, or holding someone in a state of involuntary servitude.

While the crime of false imprisonment is likewise restraining someone to restrict their freedom, it does not include the bodily harm risk of criminal restraint. Similarly, kidnapping is confinement for the purpose of committing another crime, a more serious felony in NJ which carries extended sentencing guidelines. So, criminal restraint is somewhere in between false imprisonment and kidnapping, and is usually charged with either or both of these other crimes. Regardless of whether you have been charged solely with criminal restraint, or you are facing multiple charges including criminal restraint and related offenses, it is best to seek knowledgeable legal counsel and guidance from an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney. Having a talented lawyer on your side can truly spell the difference between a positive and negative outcome in your case.

At The Tormey Law Firm, our skilled team of NJ criminal defense lawyers has earned a reputation for providing superior legal representation to those arrested and charged with crimes throughout the state. If you are accused of criminal restraint, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, or another violent or threat crime in New Jersey, we have a collection of highly effective defense strategies that can be used to successfully resolve your case. We maintain local offices in five distinct counties, including Hackensack in Bergen County, Morristown in Morris County, Newark in Essex County, Middletown in Monmouth County, and New Brunswick in Middlesex County. With a local presence in counties across New Jersey, our attorneys regularly appear in these courts to aggressively defend our clients against criminal charges and restraining orders.

If you are in need of assistance with a criminal restraint case in NJ, call The Tormey Law Firm to receive personalized guidance and a free consultation. You can reach us at (201)-556-1570 anytime or contact us online to request more information today.

What is Criminal Restraint in New Jersey?

The New Jersey Revised Statutes, Section NJSA 2C:13-2, describes criminal restraint as a third degree crime of unlawfully restraining another, against their will, that threatens “serious bodily harm” or holding another in “involuntary servitude.” Serious bodily harm is defined in NJSA 2C:11-1 as that which increases the likelihood of death, dismemberment, permanent disfiguration, or long-term impairment of a bodily part. Involuntary servitude is the belief by the captive that they are unable to leave the circumstances or conditions (forcing a person to work as described by the New Jersey Attorney General) created by another person. However, it is not considered unlawful restraint for a parent, relative or legal guardian to hold a minor while trying to control the child. As a third degree crime, criminal restraint carries a potential sentence of 3 to 5 years in New Jersey state prison.

Elements of a Criminal Restraint Offense in NJ

The New Jersey courts provide the steps for prosecuting criminal constraint, beginning with the prosecution proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly created a risk of harm and restrained or confined another by force, threat or deceit. In other words, the defendant must have known the restraint was unlawful. Knowledge means the defendant is aware of the high possibility that their actions will result in another’s loss of freedom and injury. Knowledge may be inferred from the defendant’s conduct, words and/or actions.

If the constrained person is a minor, then the confinement must be without the consent of the parent, legal guardian or other person charged with the care and control of the minor. Confinement means abridging or limiting another’s freedom to move or leave circumstances created by the restraining individual as defined by the Attorney General in the Department of Law and Safety Criminal Digest. Moreover, the defendant must have intentionally restrained another knowing that harm might befall the constrained person.

Likewise, for the second part of criminal constraint, the prosecution must prove that the defendant intentionally and knowingly held another in involuntary servitude, or conditions that amount to involuntary servitude, and the victim believed they had to stay where they were due to conditions or circumstances created by the defendant.

NJ Restraining Orders Based on Criminal Restraint

New Jersey authorizes restraining order issuance for situations involving domestic violence, including criminal restraint. This means that a person who is in a special relationship with the defendant (spouse, household member, former spouse, ex-boyfriend or girlfriend) to file a complaint in the Superior Court for criminal restraint, among other listed crimes, and request the court issue a restraining order.

A temporary restraining order may be filed and an emergency order granted in the Superior Court upon an ex parte basis (within 24 hours of filing), if the court deems the plaintiff is in immediate danger of further offenses, such as criminal constraint, committed against them. The judge may grant the order restricting the defendant’s contact with the plaintiff as well as any other relief requested. Namely, that the defendant stay away from plaintiff’s residence, place of employment, school, or any other place plaintiff frequents and that the defendant be prevented from contacting the plaintiff or plaintiff’s friends, employer, or others. This prohibits the named defendant from contacting the plaintiff either personally, by telephone, email, text, or another person acting on defendant’s behalf.

Ten days after the emergency relief is granted, the judge hears testimony and examines evidence supporting grounds for a permanent restraining order. If, by a preponderance of the evidence (meaning the evidence is more convincing than not that the evidence proves what is alleged), a permanent restraining order containing all or some of the requested relief in the temporary order application may be issued. A final restraining order remains in effect unless or until the protected party requests the judge dismiss the order or there is a successful motion to vacate the restraining order.

Violation of a Restraining Order for Criminal Restraint in NJ

After a restraining order is is granted, the clerk of the court sends a copy of the order to law enforcement agencies throughout the state. If the defendant violates the order, they commit the separate crime of contempt, which is either a fourth degree crime or a disorderly persons offense, depending on the actions and circumstances constituting the violation. For example, if the defendant emails the plaintiff, they are in violation of the restraining order but have not committed a separate crime. Emailing is not in itself a crime, so a disorderly persons offenses applies. However, if the defendant criminally constrains or assaults the plaintiff, the defendant is in contempt for a fourth degree crime. A person convicted of a fourth degree crime could face up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. For a disorderly persons offense, you face up to 6 months in jail and up to $1000.00 in fines.

Consult a NJ Criminal Restraint Lawyer for Your Top Defense Today

Clearly, criminal restraint carries serious implications for alleged victims and those accused of this crime. The likelihood of lasting physical, psychological and emotional injury to the victim warrants the New Jersey legislature’s steep penalties and lengthy sentences for committing criminal restraint and/or violating protective restraining orders for the safety of the victim. However, not all criminal restraint charges are based on reality and countless people are falsely accused of criminal restraint in New Jersey each year. If you have been arrested and charged with a violation of NJ 2C:13-2, find help and a strong advocate for your defense in the attorneys at The Tormey Law Firm. Contact us 24/7 via phone at (201)-556-1570 or send us a message online for a free consultation.


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With unmatched knowledge and experience in the practice of law, the seasoned attorneys at The Tormey Law Firm are committed to serving their clients and tenaciously confronting the allegations against them.

We will examine every facet of your case in order to defend your constitutional rights and reputation. With a dedicated legal advocate to assist you, our attorneys will ensure that you are never forced to navigate the complex legal process on your own.

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Learn More About How to Fight Your Charges

If you've been charged with a criminal offense, disorderly persons offense, or traffic / DWI violation, you have the right to an attorney who will defend you against your charges and fight for your best interests. To learn more about how your attorney can fight to have your charges dismissed or reduced, click a link below to see our video library of legal defenses and strategies.

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