Gloucester County Harassment Defense Lawyers
The word “harassment” frequently calls to mind conduct that’s bothersome or irritating, but not violent. This behavior can result in criminal charges because of how extreme and intimidating it can become.
Under the law, harassment is a serious offense. Although it is fairly common within the context of violence, anyone can face a harassment charge, regardless of a romantic or family relationship.
The Gloucester County criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have handled numerous harassment cases over our 100 combined years of legal experience. If you or a family member in Franklin Township, Deptford Township, Washington Township, Glassboro, Harrison Township, Monroe Township, Mantua Township, Swedesboro, or Woolwich Township is facing a harassment charge, please call our Woodbury office for a free consultation today.
Let us assist you at no obligation on your part by answering your questions about these types of charges and offering guidance on your next possible steps and best legal options.
Harassment Charges in Gloucester County
Under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, New Jersey’s statutes say that a person may be charged with harassment if they demonstrate harassing conduct in any of three areas:
- Communications. Any communication can constitute harassment if it uses offensively coarse language, if it’s intended to cause annoyance or alarm, or if it’s made at extremely inconvenient hours. This includes verbal or written communication, photos, phone calls, recordings, text messages, gestures — even anonymous communication.
New Jersey statutes say the harassment may be deemed to have occurred either where it was received or where it originated. Hypothetically, it also could be through a third party.
A judge considers all circumstances surrounding the communication, including the parties’ prior history, to determine whether a form of communication meets this definition. The court also decides what’s “extremely inconvenient” or “offensively coarse,” based on factors such as setting, age, gender, and to whom the communication is made. For instance, it’s unlikely that a judge would consider any 911 call “inconvenient” because of the hour, but repeated calls to 911 that involve pranking the dispatchers or cursing at them without reporting an emergency could result in a criminal harassment charge.
- Offensive Touching. This admittedly may be confusing, but shoving, striking, kicking, and other offensive touching — or threatening to do so — qualifies as harassment as long as it does not amount to battery or aggravated assault. The distinction hinges on whether the contact is considered offensive but not causing fear of bodily injury or actual injury. The recipient feels more alarm or annoyance than fear of imminent harm.
- Alarming Conduct. This covers any behavior where the purpose is to alarm or seriously annoy another person. It goes far beyond simple annoyance. Again, the court must weigh various factors to determine whether the accused harasser’s conduct meets this definition.
In Gloucester County, like elsewhere in New Jersey, intent is a vital element for a harassment charge. Prosecutors must demonstrate that the communication, touching, or alarming conduct occurred for the purpose of harassing another person: bothering, disturbing, or irritating them to a substantial level. A recipient may find profanity insensitive, but profanity itself does not indicate harassment.
The statute by design allows for latitude and speaks in generalities. These gray areas can provide Gloucester County defense attorneys with effective defense strategies. For instance, if an estranged or divorced spouse sends another dozens of emails over several months, the volume of messages alone would not constitute harassment. A court would review the content of the messages. If there is no profanity, the tone is civil, and the subject matter involves topics such as child support and visitation, there is no harassment.
New Jersey’s court rulings have provided some other guidance in domestic situations on such communication, such as in Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 713 A.2d 390 (1998), regarding one party’s word choice, and in State v. Hoffman, 149 N.J. 564, 695 A.2d 236 (1997), where one party mailed another pieces of a torn restraining order.
Harassment is generally considered as a petty disorderly persons offense (what other states call a misdemeanor) and handled at the municipal court level, such as the Deptford Township Municipal Court or Glassboro Municipal Court. A person convicted at this level is punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and up to six months in the Gloucester County Jail.
Anyone convicted of harassment at this level as part of a domestic situation faces additional restrictions, such as a restraining order.
What’s more, you could face a fourth-degree felony if you were on probation or parole when you were charged with harassment. If convicted, you could be ordered to pay a fine up to $1,000 and receive up to 18 months in a New Jersey state prison.
Gloucester County Harassment Defense Attorneys
At the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, we know from our clients’ experience that every allegation of harassment is fact-sensitive and must meet a certain burden of proof, no matter how intricate. Our lawyers have a significant track record and considerable knowledge in this area.
Whether you’ve been charged with harassment at the municipal level or must appear in Gloucester County Superior Court in Woodbury, a harassment charge can have long-reaching consequences. This type of charge, like any criminal matter, can be linked to your public record for years, complicating your efforts to obtain a job, a professional license, or a mortgage.
The Gloucester County criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall believe in giving every client a rigorous defense. We’re here to answer any questions you might have about New Jersey’s harassment statutes, its criminal justice system, or the circumstances surrounding your harassment case or that of a loved one. Your initial case evaluation is always free.
Learn more about what the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can do for you in Gloucester County. Visit us today at our Woodbury office at 38 Cooper St., Suite 204, or call us to discuss your legal options. You also can reach us through our website’s e-mail.