Harassment is a broadly construed offense in the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. Harassment falls under Section 2C:33-4 of New Jersey law and is ordinarily not a harshly punished offense. However, harassment can be hard to define because it could be any type of unwelcomed, repetitive behavior. As a result of evolving technology, harassment can even happen digitally. If you have been charged with harassment, or someone has accused you of harassment, you should contact an attorney immediately. Read on to learn about what the Law Offices of John J. Zarych’s New Jersey harassment lawyers have to say about the different types of harassment, their penalties, and whether jail time is a possible outcome of harassment charges.
What is Harassment in NJ?
Harassment is a lot of things. The definition of harassment is very broad, thus allowing many different types of behaviors to be considered harassment for the purpose of determining criminal charges. New Jersey laws give several definitions of harassment; however, not every form of harassment is covered. While some forms of harassment are not explicitly mentioned, they may still be punishable offenses and you may need an Atlantic City harassment lawyer by your side to help.
The general definition of harassment requires certain communications or behaviors by the defendant to be directed at the victim with the intent to harass the victim. The law explains three ways in which the crime of harassment may be completed.
- The defendant made communications to the victim that caused any manner of annoyance or alarm. These communications may be anonymous, at inconvenient times, or using offensive language.
- The defendant subjected the victim to some form of physical harassment, like hitting, kicking, or shoving, or threats to do so.
- The defendant engaged in any course of alarming conduct that involved repeated acts or behaviors intended to alarm or annoy the victim.
Harassment is a very general term. Any kind of annoying or offensive behavior could be construed as harassment, depending on the context of the situation. Harassment is considered a petty disorderly persons offense and is not usually punished very harshly. However, if the defendant is found guilty of harassment when they were serving a prison term or were on probation or parole, the charges will be upgraded to a crime of the fourth degree.
Cyber-harassment is similar to the crime of harassment mentioned above but occurs over the internet. With the increasing prevalence of the internet in our everyday lives, cyber-harassment has become a more commonly charged offense. Cyber-harassment was challenging to track in the past, but law enforcement is better equipped to deal with it today. According to Section 2C:33-4.1 of New Jersey law, cyber-harassment occurs when a person communicated with the victim online using an electronic device or a social media portal with the intent to harass. That can occur in different ways:
- Threatening to cause physical harm to the victim or their property
- Knowingly sending posts or comments proposing lewd or obscene material to someone, or about them, with the intent to emotionally harm that person
- Threatening to commit any crime against someone or their property
Cyber-harassment, much like the traditional definition of harassment, is very broad and may encompass a wide variety of online behaviors. Cyber-harassment is a crime of the fourth degree but may be upgraded to a crime of the third degree if the defendant is over the age of 21 and was impersonating a minor in order to harass another minor. Contact our New Jersey internet crimes defense lawyers today.
Sexual harassment is not explicitly mentioned in the New Jersey statutes regarding harassment. This is likely because harassment is a relatively minor offense, while sex-based crimes of any kind are taken more seriously. Sexual offenses like sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, and lewdness may be punished by incarceration. If you are accused of sexual harassment, you could be sued in civil court, fired from your job, or charged with a sexual offense rather than facing a simple harassment charge, depending on the conduct and the circumstances surrounding it.
What Are the Penalties for Harassment in NJ?
The crime of harassment is typically a petty disorderly persons offense and will not be punished very harshly. Such offenses may be punished with a prison term. However, that term will be limited to no more than 30 days. If the harassment charges are instead a fourth-degree crime, as mentioned above, the defendant may be sentenced to prison for no more than 18 months.
Cyber-harassment is also a fourth-degree crime and may be punished by no more than 18 months in prison. However, these charges may be upgraded depending on your circumstances. The nature of online communications makes it very easy for people to impersonate others or keep their identities a secret. Suppose a defendant who is over the age of 21 commits the crime of cyber-harassment while impersonating a minor for the purpose of harassing another minor. In that case, the charges will be upgraded to a crime of the third degree. Such a crime is punishable by a prison term of 3 to 5 years.
Can You Serve Jail Time for Harassment in NJ?
Harassment charges on their own are relatively minor offenses. If they are charged as petty disorderly persons offenses, there is a good chance you won’t serve any jail time at all. Instead, you may be made to pay fines, perform community service, or be ordered to stay away from the victim. However, this does not mean that jail time is never imposed for harassment charges. It is a very real possibility that the judge will order you to serve jail time. Factors such as the nature of the harassment and how long you harassed the victim will be considered.
Contact Our NJ Harassment Lawyer for Help with Your Case
If you or someone you know has been charged with harassment or cyber-harassment in New Jersey, you should immediately contact a New Jersey criminal defense attorney. Harassment charges may seem insignificant, but they may be charged alongside other more serious offenses. It is possible that you can go to jail for harassment in New Jersey. Contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by calling (609) 616-4956 and schedule a free legal consultation with a criminal defense lawyer.