It seems as if trolling people online—whether posting mean comments on Twitter or other social media or sending someone an unrelenting stream of emails—has become so commonplace that it may not seem all that serious. However, New Jersey law prohibits cyber-harassment, and a target of it may be able to obtain a restraining order (RO) against you for online behavior, just as they could get an RO prohibiting you from coming physically near them. And posting online in violation of an RO can result in jail time, as Bergen County resident Daniel Pfeiffer recently found out.
According to NJ.com, an unnamed woman had an RO against Pfeiffer for cyber harassment. When he once again posted explicit images of her, in violation of the order, Pfeiffer was arrested.
Violating a Restraining Order
If a plaintiff is able to obtain an RO, the intent is to stop a defendant from threatening, contacting, or harassing the plaintiff. Therefore, the prohibition for harassment is not limited to being in someone's physical presence. A defendant could violate the RO by sending a threatening letter or making a phone call, and the law doesn't see any difference between a paper communication and an email or online post.
It's worth noting that a RO will spell out the behaviors a defendant is prohibited from doing. So, it's possible that the RO includes a specific prohibition against attempting any online contact or posting any material relating to the plaintiff. But including that admonition should only serve as a warning. Even if it doesn't specifically prohibit any virtual harassment, you're still not allowed to do it.
Someone can violate an RO by sending online communications, posting illicit materials, and other behavior covered under the statute could be arrested for violating the RO.
When someone does violate an RO, they are charged with criminal contempt. But that isn't the only charge they could see for committing online harassment. They can also be charged for the harassment as an entirely separate offense.
That's what happened to Pfeiffer. Although there is no suggestion that Pfeiffer did anything other than post information online, for that, he was charged with fourth-degree contempt of a permanent stalking restraining order, fourth-degree cyber-harassment, third-degree stalking, and third-degree invasion of privacy.
Under New Jersey law, someone commits cyber-harassment if they use any electronic device or social networking site to harass someone by threatening to inflict injury or harm on the other person or their property or if the person “knowingly sends, posts, comments, requests, suggests, or proposes any lewd, indecent, or obscene material … with the intent to emotionally harm a reasonable person or place a reasonable person in fear of physical or emotional harm to his person.”
Hire an Experienced New Jersey Restraining Order Attorney
If you have an RO in place against you, you should confer with an expert criminal defense attorney to know exactly what the RO requires and prohibits. Hire a qualified New Jersey defense attorney as soon as possible.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm specializes in restraining order-related litigation, and he has represented hundreds of clients like you. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or by using the online form.
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