While it is an unfortunate truth that bullying is a serious issue in our society, it is also true that many innocent students are falsely accused of harassment, intimidation, and bullying each year. Furthermore, not all incidents of these types of crime occur among students, as there are many reports of bullying behavior from adults. What is not always clear is when these types of behavior cross over into becoming chargeable crimes. When they do, however, they can be met with serious penalties such as high fines, no-contact orders, and long jail sentences.
At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our New Jersey harassment, intimidation, and bullying lawyers have years of experience successfully defending our clients of all ages against charges stemming from alleged incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying. We will leave no stone unturned in telling your side of he story and fighting to bring your case to the most positive resolution possible. For a free consultation, call our office today at (609) 616-4956.
New Jersey Harassment Crimes
Harassment is its own charge under the New Jersey criminal code. It is defined as engaging in a repeated course of action with the purpose to alarm or seriously annoy another person. This means that, in order for harassment to be charged as a crime, the harasser must intend for their victim to become alarmed or seriously annoyed. In the context of a school environment, one student “pranking” another who is afraid of spiders by constantly placing fake spiders in his locker could be considered harassment. It could also involve subjecting someone to kicking, striking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatening to do so.
The crime of harassment in New Jersey is charged as a disorderly persons offense. If convicted of this crime, you could face penalties including fines of up to $500 and 30 days in jail, as well as the possibility of a no-contact order with the alleged victim. If you are on probation or parole when the harassment occurs, the charge is a fourth-degree felony and you could face up to 18 months in prison.
New Jersey Intimidation Crimes
When referring to the crime of intimidation in New Jersey, people likely mean a charge technically called “bias intimidation.” In fact, bias intimidation is more like an aggravating factor than an independent crime. It occurs when someone commits an underlying crime, such as harassment, with a purpose to intimidate an individual or group of individuals because of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity. For example, if someone drew swastikas on the car of a Jewish community college student, this could be considered bias intimidation.
Bias intimidation is charged as a fourth-degree crime if the underlying offense is a disorderly persons offense. If the underlying offense is an indictable offense, the crime is charged at one degree higher than the underlying charge. For example, if the underlying charge is a third-degree offense, it will become a second degree-offense. Penalties will vary depending on the underlying crime, but can include high fines and long jail sentences.
New Jersey Bullying Crimes
There is not actual crime in New Jersey known as bullying. However, behaviors identified as bullying often constitute another crime. For example, if a bully slaps someone in the face, this could be charged as assault. There is also the crime of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying occurs when, while making a communication in an online capacity and with the purpose to harass someone, a person does one of the following:
- Threatens to inflict injury or physical harm on another
- Knowingly sends, posts, comments, requests, suggests, or proposes any lewd, indecent, or obscene material to or about a person with the intent to emotionally harm them
- Threatens to commit a crime against the person or the person’s property.
For example, posting racist comments about a minority student on a social media website could be considered cyberbullying. It is charged as a fourth-degree offense if the perpetrator is under 21 years of age, and a conviction can result in fines of up to $10,000 and prison up to 18 months. If committed by someone 21 or older, it is a third-degree offense punishable by fines of up to $15,000 and up to 5 years in prison.
How Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying Crime Cases Work in New Jersey
Depending on multiple factors, including the specific crime and the age of the person who committed it, these cases can be handled in different ways and even in entirely different court systems. For example, cases involving charges against juveniles will occur in the juvenile court system. Cases involving charges against adults for disorderly persons offenses will occur in the municipal courts. Cases involving charges against adults for indictable offenses will take place in the superior courts, and cannot proceed until a grand jury issues an indictment. It is best to contact a skilled New Jersey criminal defense lawyer like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych as soon as you or your child has been charged with a crime so we can advise you on the best manner to proceed.
Your attorney will first fight for you to be released without conditions and not held in jail until the matter is resolved. Then, we will work to negotiate a deal with the prosecutor. We can try to get you into a pre-trial diversion program in some instances, or we can make a deal to have your charges downgraded or for you to plead guilty in exchange for a lenient sentence recommendation. If you do not wish to make a deal, we are ready and able to fight for your innocence at trial.
Call Our New Jersey Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying Lawyers Today
The terms harassment, intimidation, and bullying describe a series of crimes that often occur in the school environment, but can also occur among adults. These charges are taken seriously and can result in severe penalties for you or your child. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our skilled New Jersey harassment, intimidation, and bullying lawyers will fight to defend your innocence and get the charges downgraded or dismissed. Call our office today at (609) 616-4956 for a free, confidential consultation.