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Is Harassment a Crime in New Jersey?

In this article, we’ll review how harassment is defined in New Jersey, what kinds of conduct constitute harassment, and what charges might be brought against someone accused of harassment. If you find yourself in this situation, touch base with us soon. A Bergen County criminal defense attorney will look over the factors in your case and advise you on the next steps. Here are some of the questions you may have:

What Is Harassment in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, harassment is considered a disorderly person’s offense. It usually arises from some disagreement between two private individuals, when one decides to rocket up their behavior past the point the other is willing to tolerate.

Significantly, harassment charges cannot be filed if the would-be defendant lacked the intent to discomfort, threaten, or otherwise annoy the would-be plaintiff.

What Kinds of Conduct Constitute Harassment?

Harassment frequently occurs through communication, whether by phone, email, social media, or any other method. Harassing communications typically have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • Anonymity
  • Initiated at inopportune times
  • Rude or vulgar phrasing

Harassment also occurs via painful or alarming touching, as well as threats of such. Aggressive or insulting physical contact is more often charged as assault, but if the plaintiff did not suffer bodily injury as the result of the conduct, then harassment is the more appropriate charge.

Harassment is not at all limited to words or blows. Any kind of distressing conduct toward another person can be harassment, provided (1) it occurs repeatedly and (2) the individual engaging in these actions intends for them to be alarming or annoying.

How Does New Jersey Punish Harassment?

Before the court decides on the case, but after the defendant has been arrested and issued a summons regarding the harassment charge, the court may issue a no-contact order between the defendant and the plaintiff. At that point, the defendant must cease all contact with the victim. Further contact after the issuance of a no-contact order may be interpreted as contempt of court.

As a petty disorderly person’s charge, harassment means the defendant:

  • May receive a criminal record
  • May spend up to 30 days in a county jail
  • May be fined.

Limiting and Aggravating Factors

New Jersey courts have elaborated more on what causes an action to be harassment, as opposed to a more or less severe charge.

First, intent is crucial. The communication or contact had to be initiated with the end goal of harassing the victim. To be harassment, actions intended to harass must also cause marked disturbance in the targeted person. This being said, merely rude or vulgar communication is not enough to be considered harassment.

Although harassment requires intentionality, the court may also take into consideration parts of the plaintiff’s identity. If the gender, age, or occupation of the plaintiff would inform the harassing nature of the defendant’s conduct, this is something else the court may look at.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, the defendant may face enhanced consequences. If the defendant has engaged in the accused harassment while on parole or probation for an indictable offense, the penalties will likely be harsher. If evidence is produced and the plaintiff’s representative argues it is merited, the harassment charges may be recategorized as simple assault, aggravated assault, or terroristic threats.

Schedule a Consultation with an Experienced Lawyer

If you’ve been accused of harassment, you could be dealing with severe consequences, such as time in jail and a fine. Please contact us soon and we’ll talk to you about your options.

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