In New Jersey, someone may be found guilty of stalking if they repeatedly and purposefully engage in conduct directed at a specific person that would reasonably cause that person to fear for their safety, the safety of someone else, or otherwise cause them emotional distress.
Actions that add up to a stalking charge may be legal, in and of themselves, such as sending presents or writing love letters. But if these actions would reasonably instill fear or distress in the person that they are directed towards, then they may constitute an illegal pattern of behavior and be classified as stalking. But actions that constitute stalking may be less than friendly or romantic, and often include alarming, vulgar, offensive, or otherwise harassing communications at extremely inconvenient hours or locations. Repeated actions that would be defined as harassment may collectively constitute the crime of stalking.
The New Jersey statute on stalking defines:
- “repeatedly” as two or more occasions
- “emotional distress” as significant mental suffering
- “reasonable” as, that a reasonable victim in a similar situation, under the same circumstances, would have felt the same way
The Act of Stalking
Stalking is conduct which conveys a threat, whether verbal, written, visual, or through repeated interference with another person’s property. Threats may be directly stated or implied by certain actions or conduct. In New Jersey, these actions would be a crime of the fourth degree.
Courses of conduct that may constitute stalking in New Jersey include keeping close proximity (visual or physical) to a person through any action, device, or third party. This includes surveilling, observing, monitoring, following, and threatening a person.
Crime Degree of Stalking
Stalking is a Crime of the 4th degree, however, may be charged as more serious crime of the 3rd degree under and of the following circumstances:
- If a court order prohibiting the behavior had been issues, stalking may be charged as crime in the 3rd degree.
- If the person accused of stalking is serving term of imprisonment, or on parole or probation, they may be charged with Crime in 3rd degree.
- If it is a second or subsequent stalking act against the same victim.
Any stalking conviction acts as an application for permanent restraining order.
In most other cases, stalking is considered a crime of the fourth degree punishable by up to 18 months in prison and fines. However, if you are convicted of stalking as a third degree crime you could face up to five years in prison.
A stalking conviction generally results in a permanent restraining order between the victim and the defendant that places legal limits contact between the two. Restraining orders may forbid a person from entering a place of residence, school, or other property where the victim or immediate family of the victim frequently spends time. They may also forbid any personal contact or communication between the victim and the person accused of stalking.
A second or subsequent stalking offenses against the same victim are more severe crimes than the initial pattern of conduct, and are third degree crimes. Other aggravating factors that increase a stalking offense to a third-degree crime include stalking in violation of an existing court order that forbids the behavior, or stalking while serving a prison term, on parole, or on probation.
If you have had a Temporary Restraining Order filed against you or if you have been charged with a stalking crime in the State of New Jersey, contact the law firm of Clark, Clark & Noonan, LLC immediately at 732-303-7857. Our criminal defense attorneys have the skills and experience to assess your case, cross-examine the alleged “victim” of stalking and advise you on a course of action that is best for you.