Atlantic City Harassment Lawyer

Table of Contents

    Repeatedly contacting a family member, former acquaintance, former romantic partner, public figure, or any other person can rise to the level of a crime. In many cases, harassment is a lower-level crime, but it can still lead to arrest, trial, and a criminal record.

    Harassment charges might arise in a number of circumstances. Often, the defendant and alleged victim are family members, friends, or romantic partners. However, even strangers might be accused of harassment. The crime of harassment often involves offensive behavior that is intended to upset the victim. Cyber-harassment charges are also available and tend to carry a higher criminal penalty than other harassment offenses. In many cases, harassment crimes come with the risk of high fines and jail time, even for low-level offenses. If you are charged with harassment in South Jersey, it is important to talk to a lawyer about your case. They can help you determine the most effective defense strategies for your case.

    Our harassment lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych can fight to have your charges dropped or dismissed at trial. For a free case assessment, contact our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.

    Situations Where Harassment Charges Often Come Up in Atlantic City

    Harassment can be a somewhat tough offense to understand because it is often misunderstood, or the word is misused to describe behavior that might be offensive but does not technically qualify as the crime of harassment. A good way to understand harassment is to understand the types of situations in which harassment charges are often involved.

    Many harassment charges stem from domestic relations and disputes. For example, harassment charges might come up during a messy divorce. Between the division of assets and determining child custody arrangements, divorce proceedings are infamous for being contentious. A disgruntled ex-spouse might make threatening phone calls or even stalk their ex during a divorce and end up charged with harassment.

    Harassment does not always involve married couples. You might be accused of harassment by a former romantic partner you dated for a long time or only briefly. Some people are accused by total strangers. Harassment might also occur between coworkers or colleagues who do not get along at work.

    As mentioned, harassment is often misunderstood. People might accuse you of harassment when you are not actually harassing them. Perhaps you have been making numerous phone calls to your former spouse during divorce proceedings because you are concerned about child custody arrangements, but your ex refuses to pick up the phone. As explained below, you must intend to intimidate or offend someone to be charged with harassment.

    When is Harassment a Crime in Atlantic County?

    The crime of harassment generally includes repeated actions taken to annoy or alarm the victim. In many cases, harassment can include continuous communication, such as calls, texts, or even letters. Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-4, there are 3 ways harassment can be charged.

    First, it is illegal to send communications (or have them sent) in any of the following ways:

    • Anonymously (e.g., repeat calls from a blocked number),
    • “[A]t extremely inconvenient hours” (e.g., calls late at night or while the victim is at work), or
    • “[A]ny other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm (e.g., threatening or scaring the victim).

    Second, you can be charged with harassment for “striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching,” as well as threats to do so. This is often charged in domestic violence cases where assault charges may be too extreme or little to no injury results from the strikes.

    Third, “any other course of alarming conduct” and repeat acts used “to alarm or seriously annoy” the victim can constitute harassment. This is a catch-all subsection used to broadly expand the harassment statute to cover other conduct the legislature might not have thought of.

    The Definition of Cyber-Harassment in Atlantic City

    In addition to these three forms of traditional harassment, there is a separate statute for “cyber-harassment.” Essentially, this covers any harassment offense perpetrated through online communications. That can include electronic messages (such as texts and e-mails) as well as social media messages and posts.

    To constitute a cyber-harassment crime, the communications must include:

    • Any communications that threaten injury to the victim or another person or to property
    • “[L]ewd, indecent, or obscene material” used “to emotionally harm a reasonable person” or put them “in fear of physical or emotional harm”; or
    • Threats to commit a crime against the victim or their property.

    These elements make the conduct slightly worse than those covered by the traditional harassment statute, justifying the higher penalties for cyber-harassment.

    Penalties for Harassment Crimes in Atlantic City

    Traditional harassment is a petty disorderly persons offense. This is the lowest level of criminal offense in New Jersey and is similar to a “summary offense” or a “violation” in other states. While they can involve up to 6 months in jail, petty disorderly persons offenses are typically punished by a fine only. Nevertheless, the fine can be as high as $500 for these offenses.

    Cyber-harassment charges automatically have higher penalties. Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-4.1(1)(b), cyber-harassment is a fourth-degree crime. This is the lowest level of offense titled “crime” under NJ law, but it can still carry severe penalties of up to $10,000 in fines and up to 18 months in prison. If you were over 21 years old and impersonated a minor when committing the offense, it is upgraded to a third-degree crime carrying 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.

    In many cases, judges may not send you to jail for your alleged crimes, but they may order some terms to help ensure the victim is safe and free of further harassment. Minors charged with cyber-harassment may be sent to classes or training aimed at reducing cyber-harassment, and their parents may need to attend, too. Failing to attend can yield fines. With other cyber-harassment offenses, the actor might be banned from using computers or other devices as part of their probation.

    The most common term of probation or bail for harassment crimes is an order not to communicate or further harass the victim. Continuing to harass them can send you back to jail by revoking your bail or probation. In addition, if you are on probation or in jail for another crime when you commit a harassment offense, your crime is automatically upgraded to a fourth-degree crime.

    Defenses to Harassment Charges in Atlantic City

    Your lawyer can review the facts of your case and help you develop an effective defense strategy. Below are a few possible strategies we might use to help you. Remember, every case is unique, and your defense should be tailored to your specific circumstances.

    Unreasonable Victims

    Harassment is one of those offenses that gets tossed around more colloquially. Many people who say they are being harassed are often being hyperbolic or do not understand exactly what kind of behavior constitutes harassment. We might base your defense on the alleged victim’s unreasonable perception of your behavior. In short, they are accusing you of harassment when, in reality, they are overly sensitive to offensive – yet legal – behavior.

    Perhaps your behavior was not inappropriate, alarming, or otherwise anything that might constitute harassment. For example, a single phone call, even an angry one, is not harassment. Perhaps the supposed victim was offended by something you did, but if you did not actually intend to threaten or alarm them, you should not be charged with harassment.

    Maybe you “followed” the supposed victim because you have a similar route or run in similar professional or social circles. They noticed you following them, became alarmed, and called the police. In that case, your harassment charges should be dropped or dismissed as a complete misunderstanding.

    Criminal Elements

    What are the elements of harassment? Does your alleged behavior fulfill all the elements a jury needs to find you guilty? Harassment may occur under several circumstances. Under the law, harassment involves communications at extremely inconvenient hours, offensive language, or another manner that causes annoyance or alarm. It might involve physical altercations like kicking, shoving, or some offensive touching. Finally, harassment may involve alarming conduct that is done repeatedly with the purpose to alarm or annoy someone. Making numerous phone calls late at night to scare someone is harassment.

    Perhaps your purpose in communicating with the alleged victim was not to harass. This gets to the element of intent. Under the law, you must have an intent to harass to be found guilty. Maybe you did make repeated, unwanted phone calls to the alleged victim, but not because you were trying to harass them. Maybe you needed to get ahold of them for valid reasons, but they would not speak to you. Because they refused to pick up the phone, you had to continue calling. Without this intent, charges should not stick.

    Evidentiary Challenges

    We might instead challenge your charges based on the evidence. A lot of evidence comes from the police when they search someone’s private property and seize what they believe to be evidence. If the police do not follow proper legal protocols, they might violate your Fourth Amendment rights against illegal searches and seizures. Illegal evidence may be excluded from your case and not used against you.

    Maybe the evidence is not illegal, but it is insufficient. If we believe there is no way a jury could find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt based on the prosecutor’s evidence, we can motion for the judge to dismiss the case. This does not always work, but even so, we might have an easier time swaying a jury to your side if the prosecutor’s evidence is weak.

    Atlantic City Harassment Defense Lawyer Offering Free Consultations

    Contact our law offices today for a free case evaluation and to learn more about the crimes and penalties for harassment in New Jersey. Our harassment attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych can be reached at (609) 616-4956.

    Our Awards & Recognitions

    atlantic city criminal defense lawyer
    atlantic city criminal defense lawyers
    best atlantic city criminal lawyer
    atlantic city criminal lawyer
    atlantic city criminal lawyers
    atlantic city criminal defense lawyer
    atlantic city criminal defense lawyers
    best atlantic city criminal lawyer
    atlantic city criminal lawyer
    atlantic city criminal lawyers

    Recent Articles

    Free and confidential initial consultations are available 24/7.
    Call (609) 445-3533.

    Get a Free Case Review

    Atlantic County Office
    1555 Zion Road Suite 201
    Northfield, NJ 08225
    Toll Free: (866) 330-4951
    Phone: (609) 641-2266
    Fax: (609) 641-3677
    Cape May Office
    106 North Main Street
    Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
    Toll Free: (866) 330-4951
    Phone: (609) 465-6500
    Fax: (609) 641-3677
    Wildwood Office
    3309 New Jersey Avenue
    Wildwood, NJ 08260
    Toll Free: (866) 330-4951
    Phone: (609) 522-3778
    Fax: (609) 641-3677
    Atlantic City Office
    1125 Atlantic Ave Suite 500
    Atlantic City, NJ 08401
    Toll Free: (866) 330-4951
    Phone: (609) 344-9958
    Fax: (609) 641-3677
    Atlantic City criminal lawyer