Under New Jersey’s criminal code, harassment is a crime charged as a petty disorderly persons offense. However, charges can be greater under certain circumstances: a person commits a crime of the fourth degree if, in committing an offense of harassment, he/she was serving a term of imprisonment or was on parole or probation as the result of a conviction of any indictable offense under the laws of this State, any other state or the United States.
While motives may vary, from attempting to strengthen child custody case or divorce proceedings, to revenge or even a simple case of misunderstanding, charges of harassment are serious.
Important Elements of Proving Harassment
Intent: Simply annoying someone unintentionally is not harassment. The “communications” must be shown to have taken place for the purpose of harassing another person(s.)
Communication: It is important to understand “communication” includes, phone calls, voice mails, emails, text messages, face-to-face conversations, and letters. You do not have to have made the communications yourself; if you had someone else harass another person on your behalf, you may also be found guilty of harassment.
In general, in order to obtain a conviction, the prosecutor must show that a defendant committed a petty disorderly persons offense if, with purpose to harass another, he:
- Made, or caused to be made, a communication or communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm
- Subjected another individual to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatened to do so
- Engaged in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other person
Penalties for Conviction on Charges of Harassment
You may be required to pay a fine (up to $500), pay restitution to the victim, and could be subject to loss of driving privileges, and probation. Additionally:
- Petty Disorderly Persons Offense: If convicted of harassment as a petty disorderly persons offense you can receive a maximum jail sentence of up to 30 days.
- 4th Degree Offense: If you are convicted of harassment as a fourth degree offense you may be sentenced to up to 18 months in jail.
Either way, if convicted of harassment it will appear on your criminal record.