On July 15, 2020, the Burlington County Superior Law Division decided the case of State v. J.T. The principal issue under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9 was whether the defendant could be found guilty of contempt for placing an order for flowers before he was served with the temporary restraining order (TRO).
Judge Fikry held in relevant part: The main issue in D.G.M. differs from the case at bar since there is no question that here, defendant’s action in sending flowers and a card to B.L.B. would have been expressly prohibited by the TRO had the communication taken place after defendant had been served. Nevertheless, the basis for the Appellate Division’s decision to reverse the contempt conviction in D.G.M. is instructive as to the question of whether an obligation not set forth in the TRO may be imposed on defendant. Since the TRO did not notify defendant that he was obligated to attempt to recall any communications to the protected party he may have initiated prior to service of the TRO, that were not yet delivered, the addition of such a requirement after the fact would be an improper basis for conviction.
The court acknowledges and accepts the victim’s testimony that receipt of the items sent by defendant caused her to be nervous and fearful, and this decision should not be misconstrued as diminishing or deprioritizing the impact of defendant’s actions on the victim. Clearly, it is well-established that the basic protection the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act seeks to afford victims of domestic violence is the right to be left alone. State v. Hoffman (1997). In this case however, the requisite elements of contempt have not been established, and the complaint must necessarily be dismissed.
This case represents a waste of prosecutorial resources. It should not have been tried under the circumstances, let alone tried, lost, appealed, and lost again. This was all done at taxpayer expense.