On May 8, 2016, I appeared on Fox News’ “Americas News HQ” (@ANHQDC) with host Arthel Neville (@ArthelNeville) and attorney Alex Little (@AlexLittleTN) to discuss the 24-hour shooting spree in a Maryland suburb which began that the shooting death of Gladys Tordil, a reportedly beloved high school chemistry teacher, mother and the estranged wife of the shooting suspect, Eulalio Tordil. Gladys was murdered subsequent to the issuance of a civil restraining order against Eulalio.
As a former New Jersey homicide prosecutor in Morris County, the majority of our murders were domestic violence-related. When we were called to a domestic violence homicide, we would often scurry through the domestic violence files to see if there was a prior reported domestic violence incident.
Now in private practice, I regularly handle domestic violence restraining order cases throughout New Jersey and I represent both plaintiffs seeking a restraining order and defendants defending them.
To understand the process, one must first understand there is a difference between the domestic violence restraining order process which takes place in Family Court and the Criminal process where a defendant is arrested and prosecuted by the government for actual crimes. Often, a case includes both domestic violence and an underlying criminal case.
Restraining orders are court orders that are civil in nature and prohibit certain behavior, such as contacting the victim or the victim’s family; going to certain locations, such as the victim’s school, home or work; prohibiting third-party contact; or prohibiting the possession of firearms. Additionally, restraining orders can also set conditions for custody, parenting time and financial support and displace a party from a shared residence.
As with most states, New Jersey’s court rules require a domestic violence plaintiff to prove their case at a hearing before a judge. A New Jersey domestic violence judge will issue a final restraining order if the judge finds there is a domestic violence relationship; an act of domestic violence has occurred; and that the Plaintiff is in need of the protection.
Restraining order hearings are state proceedings that result in the disparity of orders throughout the country. Typically, a restraining order will require the forfeiture of any owned firearms and will also prevent possession and purchase of new ones. Those restrictions clearly didn’t stop this man, as it has been reported he purchased a firearm after the protective order was issued.
As I stated in the appearance, restraining orders are only civil in nature and really don’t have the teeth necessary to protect the victim in the most extreme cases, as evidenced here. This case is chilling, as I am not sure if anything less than incarceration would have prevented this man from killing his wife.
I’d be remiss if I did not point out the other side of the spectrum; that is, many times restraining orders are widely abused, as many people choose to use the criminal justice system and the restraining order process to better their positions in their matrimonial or divorce cases. I have successfully defended a number of these cases and it’s unfortunate given real domestic violence cases such as this one. Each time a person files a bogus domestic violence case, it diminishes the true and real victims of domestic violence protections. It takes precious resources away from the court and casts suspicion on those cases where a victim is in real need of court protection.
The other possible protection from domestic violence is a criminal prosecution, which can result in incarceration and similar no contact orders. Criminal prosecutions have their own problems, however, as domestic violence typically occurs within the home without other witnesses. Additionally, domestic violence victims are usually reluctant to come forward and cooperate with the prosecution.
This case is very unfortunate and a good reminder of the dangers of domestic violence. There is help available for victims and a procedure to ensure that the process isn’t abused. If you are a victim of New Jersey domestic violence, seek help. It is always advisable to call the police immediately if you are in danger. And having an attorney that is familiar with the system can help a victim ensure they are approaching the case in a way that achieves maximum protections.
If you are a victim of New Jersey domestic violence, or if you have been charged with a domestic violence complaint or have had a restraining order filed against you, a domestic violence lawyer such as the attorneys and former prosecutors at the Bianchi Law Group can be an invaluable asset.