New Jersey Stalking Charge or Indictment
A stalking arrest is a very serious matter under New Jersey law that could lead to more than a year in jail if convicted. The criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall know what needs to be done to defend you if you face a stalking charge in New Jersey. Our NJ criminal defense law firm is made up of former prosecutors and public defenders who have handled stalking cases in courts throughout New Jersey.
If you have been arrested or indicted for stalking in New Jersey, a criminal defense lawyer from our law office is available to discuss your case and answer your questions. Our law firm has one of New Jersey’s most experienced criminal defense teams with more than 100 years of combined experience. We will review the facts of your case and talk straight with you about your legal options and the best possible defense to your stalking indictment.
The information below is provided to help you understand some of the issues involved in a New Jersey stalking case. Please note that we handle stalking cases throughout New Jersey. Our nine law offices across the state allow our team to meet with you anywhere in Jersey that is convenient for you. We often consult with clients and their families at night and on weekends.
An initial consultation with an attorney from the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall is always free of charge. Contact us today.
What is Stalking According to New Jersey Law N.J.S.A 2C:12-10?
The New Jersey stalking law is codified as N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10. The law defines stalking as purposefully or knowingly engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of a third person or suffer other significant emotional distress.
A potentially illegal “course of conduct” includes:
- Repeatedly maintaining 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
- Interfering with a person’s property
- Repeatedly committing harassment against a person
- Repeatedly conveying, or causing to be conveyed, threats, whether verbal, written or by any other means of communication or implied by conduct, or a combination thereof.
“Repeatedly” means on two or more occasions.
For an individual to be found guilty of stalking, he or she must have exhibited conduct at least twice that a reasonable person would feel threatened by or would believe showed that someone they cared about (a third person) was in danger.
Under NJ law, group protests, demonstrations or picketing are not considered stalking.
Typical Penalties for Stalking in New Jersey
A first stalking conviction is likely to be punished as a fourth-degree offense, which may bring a sentence up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Stalking is considered a third-degree crime on a second or subsequent offense against the same individual or if:
- There was an existing temporary restraining order (TRO) prohibiting the alleged conduct
- The alleged stalking occurred while the suspect was in jail or on probation or parole for an indictable offense.
A person found guilty of a third-degree stalking offense faces 3 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Stalking Protective Orders in New Jersey
Another consequence of being convicted of stalking in New Jersey is that it creates an automatic application on behalf of the victim for a permanent restraining order against you. This is outlined in a separate New Jersey statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10.1.
A hearing may be held immediately upon conviction of stalking and an order may be handed down that:
- Prohibits you from entering the residence, property, school, or place of employment of the victim
- Requires you to stay away from any specified place named in the order as frequented regularly by the victim
- Restrains you from making contact with the victim, including an order forbidding you from personally or through an agent initiating any communication likely to cause annoyance or alarm, including personal, written, or telephone contact, or contact via electronic device with the victim, the victim’s employers, employees, or fellow workers, or others with whom communication would be likely to cause annoyance or alarm to the victim.
A permanent restraining order against you handed down because of a stalking conviction is enforceable throughout New Jersey. Once it is ordered, the court notifies the appropriate chiefs of police, members of the NJ State Police and any other appropriate law enforcement agency or court.
In domestic cases involving stalking, even when the couple has split up and gone their separate ways, the provision of a permanent restraining order barring a person from any place the victim names can be a particularly harsh punishment. You may be prohibited from visiting a place you’ve enjoyed all your life.
Violating a Stalking Protective Order
Violating a permanent restraining order subsequent to a stalking conviction is a fourth-degree offense. A conviction of violating a permanent restraining order may carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Considering that the protective order has proven inadequate in the eyes of the court, it is very likely that being convicted of violating a stalking protective order will bring an active prison sentence.
Because a jail sentence is a real possibility if you are convicted, it is crucial to engage an N.J. defense attorney to protect your rights and potentially your freedom if you have been indicted for stalking in New Jersey.
A seasoned N.J. violent crime defense attorney experienced with stalking cases may be able to have charges against you dismissed, ensure you receive the lightest possible sentence if found guilty or present a case that keeps you from being convicted.
There are many reasons stalking cases are dismissed or charges are reduced before they go to court. Many cases pit one person’s word against another’s, with little or no corroborating evidence. Defendants who go to court are found not guilty every day. To respond most effectively to stalking charges, you will need an attorney who understands what the law allows, and has working relationships with prosecutors to get them to consider factors in your favor.
If you have been indicted for stalking in New Jersey or for violating a temporary or permanent restraining order, the faster you get the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall working on your case, the sooner we will be able to challenge the charges against you.
Legal Defenses for Stalking Charges
An indictment for stalking is far from an open-and-shut case. The lawyers at our firm are experienced at handling criminal cases of this nature and know how to best present the facts so that a client is provided maximum protection.
To gain a conviction, the prosecution must first prove the elements of the crime, including that the defendant’s alleged course of repeated conduct meets the definition of stalking AND that it would have caused a reasonable person fear or emotional distress.
The New Jersey stalking law was written with imprecise words and phrases, like “proximity” and “causing to be conveyed.” How close a proximity is too close? Can the prosecution show definitively that the defendant “caused” a message to be conveyed? Is it valid to say it is stalking because someone has been repeatedly “communicating about” a person?
It may be argued that the alleged victim’s fear was not “reasonable.” The prior relationship between the parties in the case and actions of the accused would be relevant in any stalking case, but particularly in this defense. For example, we would explore whether the alleged victim reported any prior similar actions as threats and whether any had been acted upon.
If the alleged victim was not truly afraid or distressed, or a reasonable person would not have feared the defendant’s course of conduct, the stalking charges should be dismissed. If the defendant did not intend to induce fear, a stalking charge might be downgraded to harassment, a petty and disorderly persons offense, if not dismissed.
Anyone who faces criminal charges has a constitutional right to a robust legal defense. Our stalking defense attorneys will fight to protect your rights and to resolve stalking charges in a way to minimize the impact on you. The sooner you get a knowledgeable defense attorney involved in your case, the more time your attorney will have to build a strong defense to rebut the charges against you.
Contact Our New Jersey Stalking Defense Attorneys Today
If you have been indicted for stalking someone in New Jersey, exercise your right to remain silent and contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible. Don’t risk the severe punishment New Jersey law allows if you are convicted of stalking. Please note that we handle stalking cases throughout New Jersey including Ocean County, Monmouth County, Atlantic County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Burlington County, Union County, Essex County, Somerset County, Morris County, Hudson County, and Bergen County.
Our team will work diligently to protect your rights and obtain the best available outcome for you. Contact the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall now for a free initial legal consultation.