What is Stalking?
Stalking laws in New Jersey are broad and are not simply the act of showing up at the location where the victim lives or works or following them on foot or by vehicle. N.J. Stat. § 2C:12-10 defines stalking as:
“A person is guilty of stalking, a crime of the fourth degree, if he purposefully or knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his safety or the safety of a third person or suffer other emotional distress.”
New Jersey defines “course of conduct” as maintaining visual or physical proximity to a person through any of a number of methods, such as attempting to contact the person through a friend or family member. It also includes online platforms such as texting, email, or social media, known as cyberstalking. Cyberstalking charges can also reach the level of a felony.
Examples of stalking include:
- Sending explicit or implied threats, including to family and friends.
- Damaging property such as a home or car.
- Tracking someone’s location personally or through technology.
- Unwanted communication such as texts, emails, letters, or gifts.
- Manipulative behavior that seeks to gain the person’s attention.
If any of these actions are committed on two or more occasions and cause emotional stress — which the state defines as “significant mental suffering or distress” — the victim may have grounds to file stalking charges.
What are the Penalties for Stalking?
Stalking is a fourth-degree crime with a sentence of up to 18 months in prison. The charge can be classified in the third degree, which can result in up to five years in prison, under the following circumstances, according to N.J. Stat. 2C:12-10:
- A person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if he commits the crime of stalking in violation of an existing court order prohibiting the behavior.
- A person who commits a second or subsequent offense of stalking against the same victim is guilty of a crime of the third degree.
- A person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if he commits the crime of stalking while serving a term of imprisonment or while on parole or probation as the result of a conviction for any indictable offense under the laws of this State, any other state or the United States.
There are numerous factors that determine the penalties for a stalking conviction. The relationship between the victim and the alleged stalker is relevant to the case and could result in a lower charge of harassment if there was a previous relationship between the parties. In addition, intent plays a role in the case, and the accused could claim he or she did not mean to cause distress to the victim.
Restraining Orders for Victims of Stalking
Upon the conviction of stalking, the judge will likely issue a restraining order that restricts the perpetrator from coming within a specific distance of the victim or attempting to contact them. This includes by electronic means or through friends and family.
The consequences of a restraining order can extend far beyond the relationship between the parties. It has the potential to limit where the perpetrator can live and work.
Finding a Lawyer to Fight Stalking Charges
If you or a family member are facing charges of stalking, you need a strong legal team to defend your case. Contact Rosenberg | Perry & Associates for a free consultation and allow us to share how we can help in your defense against a stalking charge.