If you have been arrested for harassment you will be subject to serious penalties if found guilty such as, court ordered counseling, probation, a criminal record, and even county jail time. The services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer with a proven track record of success can often make the difference between a finding of guilty or not guilty. The New Jersey criminal law firm Proetta & Oliver is dedicated to exclusively defending clients against criminal charges including harassment. Founding attorney, Will Proetta, Esq., has handled well over 1,000 cases during his career and prides his firm on working closely with our clients throughout each stage of the case. We represent clients charged with harassment throughout Union County and the surrounding area including Roselle, Elizabeth, Cranford, Scotch Plains, Kenilworth, and Springfield. Call us today at (908) 838-0150 for a free consultation with a criminal lawyer who can answer your questions about your case and potential representation.
In New Jersey a harassment charge is considered a petty disorderly persons offense and is typically handled in municipal court. If found guilty of petty disorderly persons offense you can face up to 30 days of incarceration in the county jail to be determined by the judge. Harassment is normally seen in domestic violence cases and will typically be with companion charges such as Simple Assault or Terroristic Threats and can even be the basis for a Final Restraining Order. A passage of the New Jersey statute for harassment 2C:33-4 has been provided for your convenience below.
New Jersey Harassment 2C:33-4 Law
The statute in pertinent part provides:
A person commits a petty disorderly persons offense if, with purpose to harass another, he:
a. Makes, or causes to be made, a communication or communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm;
b. Subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so; or
c. Engages in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other person.
A communication under subsection a. may be deemed to have been made either at the place where it originated or at the place where it was received.
Intent to Harass is a Crucial Element for Harassment Offenses
With respect to all harassment charges, one of the key elements of harassment that is set forth in the criminal statute is intent: the defendant must have committed the unlawful act “with purpose to harass another.” This intent element applies to all of the possible scenarios that can give rise to a harassment charge, whether it’s verbal communication, physical touching, or a repeated course of conduct. This means that the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you were intentionally trying to alarm or annoy the victim with your communications. Of course, while it might be easy to explain a daytime phone call to your ex-wife as being for the legitimate purpose of resolving a child custody matter, it would probably be harder to explain multiple phone calls to your ex-girlfriend after midnight.
Harassment Offense Penalties can be Harsh
N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 states that harassment is typically considered a petty disorderly persons offense. A petty disorderly persons offense is the least serious criminal charge a person can face in New Jersey. When a defendant is charged with harassment or any other petty disorderly persons offense, the case is handled in the local municipal court of the city or town where the offense allegedly occurred. If the case is not resolved prior to trial, it will be heard by a judge – and the judge will ultimately decide the defendant’s guilt and impose any sentence if the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty to the harassment charges. Importantly, there are no jury trials in municipal court because these types of offenses are not technically considered “crimes” in NJ.
A conviction on petty disorderly persons offense harassment can result in the defendant being sentenced to a maximum of 30 days in jail. The judge can also levy a $500 fine, which the defendant would be required to pay. In most harassment cases, the defendant is able to avoid going to jail. Unfortunately, being convicted or pleading guilty will still land you with a criminal conviction on your record.
Charges for Cyber-Harassment in NJ
Since the proliferation of electronic devices and social media sites that facilitate constant communication, New Jersey enacted a specific law against cyber-harassment. N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4.1 prohibits communication in an online capacity via electronic devices or social networking sites that is intended to harass another person. This includes conduct described in the general harassment statute, as well as online communications involving indecent or obscene material. Typically, cyber-harassment is considered a fourth degree crime, punishable by up to 18 months in NJ State Prison and a fine of $10,000. Notably, these charges are elevated to third degree crimes if the defendant is over the age of 21 and impersonates a minor with the purpose of cyber-harassing a minor.
Summit New Jersey Harassment Defense Lawyer
Harassment is directed at private annoyances, in contrast to the offense of Disorderly Conduct, which is limited to general disturbances and public annoyance. One of the key factors that the state must show to prove harassment has occurred is that defendant did it with the purpose to harass the victim. As a side note, case law has held that profanity and the use of foul language, by itself is not enough to show intent to harass another. The elements of a harassment case can be complicated and serious and therefore it is always strongly recommended that you have professional representation from an experienced harassment attorney. Contact our Cranford Office to speak with a defense lawyer about the details of your case and what we can do for you at (908) 838-0150.
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