In New Jersey, stalking is considered a serious offense. It is usually a crime of the fourth degree. However, depending on the surrounding circumstances it can be a crime of the third degree. Consequences if convicted can include a felony criminal record, a temporary or final restraining order, and a destroyed reputation. A stalking conviction can lead people to believe you may be a violent person and prevent you from obtaining or keeping a job. The New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at LS&P Lawyers can provide you with skilled legal guidance on what to do when you have been charged with stalking. More importantly, our attorneys can guide you on what not to do while providing you with an aggressive defense.
In order to be convicted of stalking a person must:
- Purposefully or knowingly engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury to herself or a member of her immediate family or to fear the death of herself or a member of her immediate family.
In other words, would a reasonable person in the victim’s shoes feel threatened?
To better answer this question it is first important to understand what "course of conduct" means. The statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10, defines it broadly to encompass many different circumstances.
"Course of conduct" means repeatedly maintaining a visual or physical proximity to a person; directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means, following, monitoring, observing, surveilling, threatening, or communicating to or about, a person, or interfering with a person's property; repeatedly committing harassment against a person; or repeatedly conveying, or causing to be conveyed, verbal or written threats or threats conveyed by any other means of communication or threats implied by conduct or a combination thereof directed at or toward a person.
The statute further explains that
- "Repeatedly" means on two or more occasions.
- "Emotional distress" means significant mental suffering or distress.
- "Cause a reasonable person to fear" means to cause fear which a reasonable victim, similarly situated, would have under the circumstances.
Stalking can extend beyond the conventional meaning of stalking someone on foot or by following him or her in a car. It is important to remember that in our tech savvy society stalking can be done through text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks.
Below is the New Jersey Statute that makes stalking a crime followed by an explanation of the degrees of the crime and the consequences if convicted.
N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10(b) provides:
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.
- 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.
- This act shall not apply to conduct which occurs during organized group picketing.
Usually, stalking is a fourth degree crime and if convicted, you could serve up to 18 months in prison. There are certain circumstances that will enhance the charge to a crime in the third degree.
- If you stalk someone when there is already a restraining order in place.
- If you stalk someone that you have previously been convicted of stalking.
- If you are currently in jail or on parole for an offense – related or not - and you stalk someone.
A conviction for stalking in the 3rd degree can result in a penalty of up to 5 years in state prison and large fines.
If you have been charged with stalking don’t wait until it’s too late. Contact LS&P Lawyers for a free consultation to discuss your case and any possible defenses that you may have.