In New Jersey, the law seeks to protect innocent people from having to live in fear due to the threatening behavior of others. Stalking is one of the types of threatening behavior that is outlawed under New Jersey criminal law. Stalking is considered a serious criminal offense, and a conviction carries significant penalties and consequences.
What is Stalking?
Under New Jersey’s criminal law, stalking does not occur simply because a victim is followed or an alleged stalker showed up at the victim’s home or place of work. Instead, the stalking statute specifically defines stalking as purposefully or knowingly engaging in a “course of conduct” directed at a specific person, which would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or the safety of a third person or to suffer some form of emotional distress. “Course of conduct” usually must occur over two or more occasions; it involves keeping proximity to the target of the stalking through any number of methods, including physically following the target or contacting the target’s family and friends. Stalking may also occur online or through text, which constitutes the separate criminal offense of cyberstalking.
Examples of stalking behavior include:
- Sending explicit and/or implicit threats of harm (including self-harm), including both to the target as well as the target’s family and friend
- Tracking a person’s location, either by physically following them or using technological means
- Repeatedly sending unwanted communication, including phone calls/voicemails, texts, emails, social media posts/messages, or gifts
- Engaging in behavior intended to gain the target person’s attention
What Are the Penalties for a Stalking Conviction in New Jersey?
Stalking is normally charged as a fourth-degree crime or indictable offense (also called a felony). A conviction for a fourth-degree crime can result in a prison sentence of up to 18 months. However, a charge of stalking may be upgraded to a third-degree crime under certain circumstances, including:
- Committing a second or subsequent offense of stalking against the same victim
- Engaging in stalking in violation of a court order prohibiting such conduct or prohibiting the defendant from having any contact with the target of the stalking
- Engaging in stalking while serving a term of imprisonment or while on parole or probation
A conviction for a third-degree crime carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.
In addition to a sentence of incarceration for a stalking conviction, courts will almost always prohibit the defendant from having contact with the victim in the future.
Finally, having a criminal record for a stalking conviction that shows up on background checks can have long-lasting impacts on an offender’s life, including potentially negatively impacting their ability to seek employment, housing, or educational opportunities.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You Face a Stalking Charge or a Restraining Order Based on Stalking
If you have been arrested or charged with stalking, or if you have been served with a Temporary Restraining Order, you need a criminal defense attorney to help defend your rights, freedom, and reputation. A lawyer can assist you in your case by:
- Independently investigating the facts and circumstances of your case to recover all available evidence.
- Going over your rights and options and what to expect in your case, including the potential consequences of conviction.
- Challenging the prosecution’s evidence and case to try to have your charges reduced or dismissed (such as by showing that you were inadvertently in proximity to the alleged victim and had no criminal intent).
- Pursuing legal avenues to help you avoid the most serious consequences of conviction.
- Advocating in your defense if you choose to contest your charges at trial.
Contact an Experienced Audubon Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Stalking Charges in New Jersey
Were you arrested or charged with stalking in New Jersey? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The attorneys at Aydelotte & Scardella Law LLC have successfully represented clients charged with stalking in Cherry Hill, Haddon Township, Camden, and throughout New Jersey. Call (856) 452-4820 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office located at 109 E. Atlantic Ave., Audubon, NJ 08106, in addition to offices located in Hamilton.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.