Harassment is unwelcome conduct that makes people feel annoyed or alerted. Illinois has enforced specific laws that address what actions constitute harassment and the penalties for these actions. If you've been charged with harassing another person, you're exposed to serious legal ramifications that could land you a jail sentence, cost you money, and limit your future opportunities. It's important you understand the gravity of this crime and the penalties associated with it.
Which Actions Constitute Harassment in New Jersey?
In essence, harassment is a blanket term that encompasses a broad range of actions. Harassment can take on many forms, including verbal, physical and virtual behaviors and gestures. Under statute N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, in all cases there should be an intent to harass combined with the following behaviors:
- Making communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or in any other matter likely to cause annoyance or harm;
- Subjects another person to kicking, shoving, striking, or other offense touching, or threatens to do so; or
- Engaging in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such person.
If a defendant is convicted of harassment while they are incarcerated, on parole, or on probation, the consequences are more severe.
The element of “intent to harass” is an important factor in determining whether a defendant will be prosecuted or not. In these cases, prosecutors have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted with the purpose to harass, bother, or scare another person. Establishing a defendant's intentions in these cases is difficult for even the most skilled prosecutors because the purpose for carrying out such actions isn't always explicit or obvious.
Many harassment charges are tacked on alongside other crimes like a hate crime or domestic violence.
Curse words alone can't constitute harassment.
Legal Penalties for Harassment for in New Jersey
The majority of harassment charges are classified as a petty disorderly persons offense, which carries penalties of up to 30 days in jail and a fine up to $500. If a defendant was incarcerated, on parole, or on probation while acquiring these charges, this charge is elevated to a fourth-degree offense. A fourth-degree offense is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to $10,000 in fines. Cyber harassment also leads to an elevated charge of a fourth-degree felony.
Potential Defenses for Harassment Charges
An indictment for harassment hinges on a number of factors. The Lento Law Firm has an adept knowledge of the elements of a case that must be proven to prosecute a defendant of harassment, and therefore understands the potential defenses to assert that could disprove them. A defense can be so convincing that it causes a person's sentence to be reduced, a downgraded charge, or even lead to a dismissal of the case overall.
The defendant did not intend to harass the victim. The major challenge in harassment cases for courts is to determine if the conduct was just insensitive or if the defendant intended to harass the victim. As aforementioned, making this distinction can be quite difficult.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
There are numerous actions that could constitute harassment. Harassment charges are taken seriously in the state of New Jersey. A conviction of this crime can land you behind bars, not to mention the damage a criminal conviction can have on your professional and personal life. To avoid a harassment conviction and the legal penalties that come with it, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
If you're looking for quality legal representation, the Lento Law Firm is the ideal firm for you. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience and credentials to defend and counsel people who've acquired stalking charges. He will explain your pending charges, build a solid defense and work towards getting your charges reduced or dropped. For more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact the Lento Law Firm either online or by phone at 888-535-3686.