Stalking

New Jersey has specified laws for stalking. This is harassing behavior thought of as threatening, persistent, and distressing but has not evolved into terroristic threats or assault. N.J.S.A 2C:12-10 prohibits stalking in any form and provides harsh penalties to those who violate this statute.

Stalking is defined as repeatedly maintaining a visual or physical proximity to a person, whether it be through following, monitoring, observing, threatening, or communicating to the victim. It is also defined as repeatedly committing harassment or repeatedly conveying threats to another.

Two elements must be proved in order to convict someone for stalking. First, the defendant must have repeatedly been in proximity to the victim. Electronic surveillance or the use of a third party to follow the victim is viewed as stalking as long as the behavior is repeated. Second, these actions must cause the victim to feel emotional distress or fear for his safety or the safety of another. The victim does not need to feel this distress as the behavior occurs, as long as it is experienced when the behavior is discovered.

A first offense of stalking warrants a charge of the fourth degree, punishable by 6 to 18 months in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. A second or subsequent offense against the same victim is guilty of stalking in the third degree, punishable by 3 to 5 years imprisonment and up to $15,000 in fines. Similarly, a person commits a third degree stalking offense if he is in violation of a court order prohibiting such behavior or if he is on parole or probation for a crime committed anywhere in the US. This includes a domestic violence order.

In a case where a defendant is charged with both stalking and contempt of a restraining order, the stalking charge will first be submitted to the jury without the contempt charge. If the jury finds the defendant guilty of stalking, the grade of stalking and contempt offense can be submitted together to the jury.

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