When Can You Be Charged with Stalking Under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10?
A stalking conviction in New Jersey can have intensely negative consequences. In addition to burdening you with hefty criminal fines and a potentially lengthy prison sentence, a history of felony stalking offenses can also make it exceedingly difficult to find work. Employers may hesitate to hire you, fearing for their safety or that of their employees. And, if the offense involved an element of domestic violence, you may find yourself on the receiving end of a restraining order.
Contact Our Cape May Stalking Lawyers for a Free Legal Consultation
At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, we understand how upsetting and stressful stalking accusations are for the defendant. Perhaps you weren’t even aware that you were breaking the law at the time of the alleged offense. Whatever the circumstances, we will dig through every scrap of evidence to develop an aggressive legal strategy designed to protect your interests, leaving no stone unturned in our vigorous effort to see that your case resolves with minimal disruption to your daily life.
Our criminal attorneys have more than 45 years of combined experience handling stalking charges in Cape May County and Atlantic County. We may be able to have the charges against you dropped, have your case dismissed, or have the sentence or charges reduced. To learn more about the defense strategies that may be open to you, call our law offices immediately at (609) 616-4956. Our Atlantic City stalking lawyers are here to help you.
Reasons You Can Be Arrested for Stalking Someone in Atlantic County
New Jersey classifies stalking as an indictable crime, known in other states as a felony. Indictable crimes are divided into several categories, each of which have different criminal penalties. These categories include crimes of the first degree, crimes of the second degree, crimes of the third degree, and crimes of the fourth degree. The lower the number, the more serious the offense, and the greater the associated criminal penalties. Penalties for stalking are explained in detail in the next section of this article.
Stalking is charged as a fourth degree crime under N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-10 when, allegedly, the defendant “purposefully or knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury to himself or a member of his immediate family or to fear the death of himself or a member of his immediate family.”
Broken down into pieces, here’s what that means and what the prosecutor must prove:
- The defendant committed the offense knowingly, not accidentally.
- The defendant took part in a “course of conduct,” which means doing any of the following at least two times (“repeatedly”):
- Watching or keeping the victim under surveillance (“maintaining a visual… proximity”).
- Following the victim (“maintaining… physical proximity”).
- Making threats, or causing threats to be made. The threats can be verbal, written, or a combination of both. The threats can also be implied.
- The course of conduct targeted an individual, not a group or organization.
- The course of conduct would cause any reasonable person, considering the circumstances, to be afraid that:
- They would be injured or killed.
- One of their immediate family members, such as child or parent, would be injured or killed.
Stalking is charged as a third degree crime, which is more serious, when:
- It is the defendant’s second stalking offense.
- The offense constitutes a violation of a protective/restraining order.
- The defendant commits the offense:
- While on probation for an indictable crime.
- While on parole for an indictable crime.
- While incarcerated.
What Are the Criminal Penalties if You Are Convicted of Stalking in New Jersey?
As the previous section pointed out, stalking can be charged as a crime of the fourth or third degree, depending on the details of the incident being alleged. Criminal penalties for a fourth degree crime in New Jersey include:
- A criminal fine of up to $10,000.
- A sentence of up to 18 months in prison.
The criminal penalties for a third degree crime are even more severe, and may include:
- A criminal fine of up to $15,000.
- A sentence of up to 5 years in prison.
Depending on the situation, the defendant may also face other penalties, such as the suspension of their driver’s license, mandatory community service, and/or supervised probation, during which the defendant will be required to comply with strict rules.
Domestic Violence and Violations of Restraining Orders
Along with offenses like harassment, criminal trespass, and assault, stalking is one of 14 crimes which are considered to be acts of domestic violence under N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-19(a) if committed against a:
- Current or former spouse.
- Current or former cohabitant (member of the defendant’s household).
This includes adults and emancipated minors.
If you are found guilty of stalking in New Jersey, or if the victim feels that his or her safety is in jeopardy, he or she can apply for a protective order (restraining order). If you violate the restraining order, the victim has the right to sign a criminal complaint for “Contempt of a Restraining Order,” at which point the police can place you under arrest again.
If you, your daughter, or your son was arrested for stalking in Atlantic City or the surrounding area, turn to the trusted and respected criminal lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych for quality legal representation. Call us right away at (609) 616-4956 to arrange a free legal consultation. We will keep your information private.