Most New Jersey residents know that a Temporary Restraining Order is in connection with a domestic violence issue. Some are also knowledgeable of Nicole’s Law, which is a type of restraining order against sex offenders to prohibit contact with a victim. However, few individuals within the State of New Jersey are familiar with or even have heard of a Drug Offender Restraining Order (DORO). So, what is it, and if you have been charged with a drug crime, could it potentially affect you?
The DORO was established by the Drug Offender Restraining Order Act of 1999, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5.4 to 5.10 (the Act). In a recently published NJ Supreme Court case, State of New Jersey v. Fitzpatrick and State of New Jersey v. Brister, the Court describes the intent of the Act as follows:
“The Act is designed to enhance the quality of life and protect the public in areas plagued by illegal drug activity. It fulfills its purpose by restraining drug offenders from returning to locations where they had engaged in illegal drug manufacturing or distribution activities. Accordingly, the Act established procedures for issuing restraining orders against person charged with or convicted of certain drug-related offenses. Specifically, the Act empowers law enforcement officers and prosecutors to apply for a restraining order at two different times: (1) when the person, including a juvenile, is charged with drug offenses, and (2) when a drug offender is convicted or adjudicated delinquent.”
In the case at hand, Fitzpatrick and Brister, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office moved to have a DORO placed against both defendants, who were convicted of drug distribution within 1000 feet of a school zone. The Middlesex County Criminal Court denied the request, and the State appealed.
In the appeal, the criminal defense attorney argued the following:
- The Drug Offender Restraining Order Act is unconstitutional;
- The imposition of DOROs would violate the plea agreements; and
- The Middlesex County trial court properly denied the applications for DOROs using the correct legal standard.
In conclusion, the Appellate Division did not address any of the criminal defense attorney’s arguments. Instead, they found that the State filed the appeal out of time (appeals in connections with Drug Offender Restraining Orders must be filed within 10 days of the sentencing hearing). Therefore, the State’s appeal was denied, and the Middlesex County drug offenders are not subject to the restraining order.