Contempt and Violations Of Pre-Trial Release (Part 4)

by | May 4, 2019 | Blog, Legal Procedures, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Judge Yannotti continued in relevant part: The State further argues that New Jersey’s case law confirms its ability to charge a defendant with contempt under if the defendant purposely or knowingly violates a condition in a pretrial release order. In support of that argument, the State relies upon Gandhi, 201 N.J. 161.

In Gandhi, the defendant became obsessed with a woman who rebuffed his desire for a romantic and sexual relationship. The woman filed a complaint against the defendant charging harassment, but later withdrew the complaint. The trial court nevertheless “issued an oral restraining order” directing the defendant not to have any contact with the woman.

The defendant violated the order and he was charged with stalking under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10(c). The trial court set bail and included a no-contact directive in the bail order. Later, after the defendant violated that order, the court increased the amount of bail and expanded the scope of the no-contact directive. Thereafter, the defendant continued to violate the court’s orders.

The State filed additional charges against the defendant, and the charges included numerous counts of contempt of court based on the defendant’s violations of the no-contact requirements of the court’s orders. The defendant was tried and convicted of third-degree stalking and contempt of court.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the no-contact orders and the bail orders with no-contact provisions, were an insufficient factual basis for finding that he engaged in stalking in violation of a court order, which elevated the stalking charge from a fourth-degree to a third-degree offense. The Supreme Court rejected that argument, noting that “we insist on compliance with judicial orders to promote order and respect for the judicial process.”

It is unlikely that the Legislature considered a bail or pretrial release order as a basis for elevating a stalking charge from a fourth degree to a third-degree offense. It was likely focused on final restraining orders in domestic violence cases and their equivalents from other states.