Separations from a partner often bring stress and pain even when it's mutual and friendly. When breakups turn hostile, they have the potential to elevate your troubles — especially when social media is involved.
Social media has brought us closer together in many ways, but it carries multiple pitfalls when the lines blur between physical and digital worlds. One of the arenas where that's playing out is in the legal field and the New Jersey laws governing domestic violence.
Cyber-harassment in New Jersey
A 2016 “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act” outlined “predicate acts” of domestic violence. These included false imprisonment; sexual assault; criminal mischief; and burglary. Cyber harassment also made the list.
Cyber-harassment includes threats of violence and attempts to emotionally harm or place someone in fear of physical harm through social networking sites and electronic devices. Some of the digital avenues are:
The definition of harassment encompasses more indirect methods, too. Late-night calls or repeated messages can be used to establish a pattern of abuse against you.
Your Actions Can Create a Pattern
Often you don't realize just how closely linked you are with your partner in the digital world until a split occurs. It's important to take evaluate how your actions may be perceived, no matter your intentions.
Consider, for instance, finances like shared bills and joint bank accounts. Changing passwords or moving assets can be viewed as a threat. “Liking” pictures of your children or commenting on how much you miss them can be misconstrued.
What you post matters. Spreading rumors or misinformation about a partner can also be misconstrued as a threat. When emotions run high and you just want to vent online, don't be surprised when pages of texts and posts are presented in court without the proper context.
Restrain Yourself Online
Social media increasingly plays a role in restraining orders. The old rules of restraining orders laid out restrictions like how close you could approach a person. Now those boundaries are extending to the digital realm. In a 2014 New Jersey Case, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court supported a ruling barring a mother from posting about her ex-husband and children. She broke that condition of her bail and was subsequently arrested.
Put another way, the “no contact” language of a restraining order extends to social media. Blocking and deleting someone avoids accidental contact and erases the temptation to contact.
And Now for Some Good News
Social media and digital communications can serve as ammunition against you. But there are two sides to the coin. Texts, messages, emails, and voicemails can also serve as a defense and demonstrate a lack of annoyance or alarm. Bringing your side of the story to the courtroom offers valuable context and clarity.
That's where a skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney can protect your rights. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the experienced lawyers at the Lento Law Firm have been guiding defendants through domestic violence charges for years, and they can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm online or give them a call at (888) 535-3686 to set up a consultation.