Kelly and Nolan recently represented a client on appeal from a Final Restraining Order entered against him by a Trial Court on the grounds of harassment in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4. The Final Restraining Order was entered as a result of a culmination of communications made by our client to his previous girlfriend, the triggering communication being a non-threatening text message. In particular, the text message pronounced an apology and his intention to end further attempts to revive their relationship.
After the Appellate Court's review of the case, it disagreed with the Trial Court's interpretation of the applicable statute for harassment. According to the Appellate Court, a determination of harassment under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 requires a finding of a purpose to harass. In explaining its interpretation of the statute, the Appellate court referenced prior cases that declared the purpose of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. The Act is not meant to prohibit all forms of unpleasant interaction between individuals. Therefore, the Court should not look to the effect of the speech upon the victim, but rather the Court should look to the purpose of the actor in making the communication.
The Court thereafter could find no basis to support a finding of a purpose to harass. The Court reasoned that a singular message in which our client simply apologized for his previous behavior would not cause annoyance or alarm in a reasonable person. The Appellate Court found no evidence to support a finding of harassment, and therefore reversed the Final Restraining Order against our client. Having vacated the Restraining Order, our client was very pleased with the appellate work of the attorneys at Kelly and Nolan.
If there is a Temporary or Final Restraining Order entered against you or someone you know, you should reach out to a local attorney with experience in domestic disputes. Contact our office at any time to discuss how we can help to best resolve your legal problems.