Important Information to Understand About Stalking Laws in New Jersey
Stalking is a crime and can also be the predicate act for a restraining order under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act in New Jersey. Whether you are the victim of stalking, accused or being investigated for stalking, or a party in a domestic violence restraining order action, it is important to understand the legal definition of Stalking and what must be proven for a criminal conviction or the entry of a Final Restraining Order.
What Is Stalking?
According to N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10(b), an individual is guilty of stalking if he “purposefully or knowingly engaged 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 “course of conduct” means repeatedly maintaining visual or physical proximity to a person… by any action, method, device or means, following, monitoring, observing, surveilling, threatening, or communicating to or about a person, repeatedly committing harassment against a person, or utilizing 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.
Moreover, the alleged conduct must cause a reasonable person, who is in a similar set of circumstances as the alleged victim, to fear for his safety or the safety of a third person, or suffer other emotional distress. Our NJ Supreme Court has held the Stalking-Offender’s purpose need not be to cause such a result. Instead, a Stalking-Offender’s purpose must only be to engage in the prohibited course of conduct and not to have a particular effect on the victim.
What Is the Relationship Between Stalking and Domestic Violence?
Stalking can be a predicate act under the Domestic Violence Act which allows stalking victims to apply and obtain Restraining Orders. Predicate acts are crimes or offenses enumerated in the Domestic Violence Act which can be the basis for entry of a Restraining Order. If a Temporary Restraining Order is granted, the matter is set down for a hearing at the Superior Court in where a Family Part Judge must determine if the predicate act has been proven by a preponderance of evidence and if the Restraining Order is necessary for the protection of the victim. Restraining Orders in New Jersey are indefinite and have significant consequences upon entry of a Final Restraining Order including no-contact orders, psychological counseling, entry into a Domestic Violence database, restrictions on custody or parenting time, monetary damages and/or the payment of the victim’s attorneys fees.
What are the Criminal Penalties for Stalking in New Jersey?
Stalking is a fourth-degree crime which is punishable with up to 18 months in prison. Under some circumstances, Stalking can be a third-degree crime.