Recently, a Hoboken resident was charged with stalking and harassing public officials and private persons supporting a contentious bond referendum. The public officials included the Mayor and Council President, to whom the defendant sent letters at home. You might be asking how writing a letter—albeit an angry or abusive one—has become harassment or stalking under NJ law. In this case, the letters contained threats and were racially charged, sexually suggestive, and otherwise offensive.
Stalking and Harassment in NJ
Stalking involves a "course of conduct" towards a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their own or another person's safety. This might involve repeated attempts to follow or communicate with a person, but it can also involve repeatedly committing harassment. Harassment involves communications that are either extremely unsettling (at unusual hours or in patently offensive or coarse language) or which are likely to cause "annoyance or alarm."
Stalking and Restraining Orders
Under NJ law, a stalking conviction acts as an automatic application for a permanent or final Restraining Order (FRO). A restraining order comes with its own issues and collateral consequences. Your job may demand that any restraining order or conviction be reported, and a stalking conviction with a FRO may lead to job loss. It may also lead to difficulties with a child custody issue, the loss of a right to own a weapon, or damage to your reputation or business.
If You Are Charged With Stalking or Receive a Restraining Order
If you are charged with Stalking or Harassment, the prosecutor must prove that your conduct fits the NJ statute definition. The statute is full of loose terms and definitions, and the possibility of another person misconstruing your intent is significant. Your best defense may be arguing that your conduct does not amount to harassment or another defined term in the statute.
If you receive a restraining order, the first thing you should do is accept it and not become abusive or angry—everything you do related to this issue will be scrutinized in court. Then, you need to secure an attorney experienced with restraining orders. In the case of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), hearings are scheduled within a ten-day window. Now is not the time for delay—if you are going to secure legal counsel to represent you most effectively, you must act quickly. During your wait for the chance to defend yourself, follow the terms of the Order and don't give the other side any fuel for the fire.
Call the Lento Law Firm for Stalking or Harassment Defense
The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has experience in defense of stalking or harassment charges and has experience handling all types of restraining orders. We understand the impact they can have on clients' lives. If you've been charged or issued a TRO, or if you're fighting to overturn a FRO, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686, or submit your details online, and we will contact you.