In the age of the internet, it is becoming increasingly easy to communicate with people instantaneously. Online communications, such as email and social media, have made it possible to communicate with large numbers of people anywhere in the world in the blink of an eye. Not all communications are good, however. It is not uncommon for people to send rude, unpleasant, or even threatening messages to each other over the internet. Due to the nature of the internet, it is not always possible to determine who is sending you threatening messages. It can also be challenging to ignore. A person may block someone from sending them rude messages on social media, but nothing is stopping that person from creating another online account and sending them more threats. Online harassment is a crime in the State of New Jersey and, as internet usage has become an inescapable part of our daily lives, it is taken quite seriously. If you are accused of or charged with online harassment, call our New Jersey internet crimes defense lawyer for help.
What is Online Harassment in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, online harassment is very similar to ordinary harassment, except it occurs through some internet portals such as email or social media. According to the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, online or cyber harassment may occur in several forms. You may be guilty of online harassment if you send messages to another threatening to cause them physical harm or harm to their property. You may also be guilty by threatening to commit any other crime against another person or their property. Online harassment also includes sending messages or posts to another person containing some sort of lewd or obscene material. Harassment also includes sending obscene material about a person with the intent to cause them emotional harm or place them in fear of harm. This type of harassment includes what is often referred to as “revenge porn,” where someone distributes lewd or sexual photos or videos of the victim.
Is Online Harassment a Crime in New Jersey?
In years past, online harassment was difficult to track and did not always lead to criminal charges. However, today law enforcement is more prepared to deal with cybercrimes, and online harassment is most certainly treated as a crime. In New Jersey, criminal offenses are broken into three categories. Offenses punishable by at least 6 months in prison are called “crimes.” All lesser offenses are known as “disorderly person offenses” and minor infractions are called “petty disorderly person offenses.” Online harassment is considered a crime in New Jersey.
More specifically, crimes are further split into four subcategories. These are, from least to most serious, crimes of the fourth, third, second, and first degree. Each subcategory carries a prison term, with fourth-degree crimes having the shortest and first-degree crimes having the longest. Online harassment is generally charged as a fourth-degree crime. However, if a person is 21 years old or older and pretends to be a minor online to harass another minor, the charge will be upgraded to a crime of the third degree.
Much like harassment in real life, you can be arrested for online harassment. Online harassment may involve serious threats and lead to aggressive law enforcement action. Like for all crimes, if the police want to arrest you, they will need to show probable cause for the arrest and have a judge or magistrate sign off on an arrest warrant. The probable cause necessary to arrest you can come from the victim who probably has access or copies of the messages you sent them. Everything you post online or send in a message is saved somewhere on the internet and may be used against you. To challenge your arrest and the charges against you, call our Atlantic City harassment lawyer.
What are the Penalties for Online Harassment in New Jersey?
Not only can you be arrested for online harassment, but you may face potential jail time if convicted. Online harassment is punished as a fourth-degree crime or as a third-degree crime under certain circumstances. A crime of the fourth degree in New Jersey carries a prison term of up to 18 months. However, a crime of the third degree has a prison term of at least 3 years but no more than 5 years. There is a huge difference in the length of prison terms between these two charges, and it is crucial to understand how you have been charged. The nature of the harassment, such as the content of the messages and who the messages are sent to, are considered when determining the charges against you. An experienced New Jersey harassment defense attorney will help you understand the consequences you face and the precise nature of your charges.
How Do I Know if my Online Post is Harassment in New Jersey?
Many people find themselves communicating online almost every day. Whether it be sending work emails or posting comments on social media like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, online communications are an integral part of our daily routine. It is possible you found yourself in a disagreement with someone online, and that disagreement turned rather ugly. Perhaps harsh words were exchanged and the other party now claims you harassed them. It is essential to understand the difference between a heated online debate and online harassment.
Online harassment often requires a specific intent by the harasser to cause some sort of emotional or psychological harm to the victim. Messages, photos, or videos are sent knowing they will cause distress to the person who receives them. No matter how heated, a simple online argument is ultimately just a debate between two people with opposing opinions. Additionally, depending on the nature of the communication, online harassment is often carried out over a period of time and involves repeatedly sending distressing messages or posts. A single unpleasant message may not be considered harassment, but if it is followed by many more unpleasant messages, it can become harassment. However, a message or post that is highly offensive or distressing, like revenge porn, may need only to be sent once to be considered harassment.
Contact Our New Jersey Online Harassment Lawyer for a Free Case Consultation
It is not always clear when online communications or discussions become harassment. If you or someone you know has been charged with online harassment in New Jersey, a New Jersey criminal defense attorney will be able to help you understand the charges against you and determine the best defense for your case. Contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by calling (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free legal consultation.