Stalking Criminal Defense in Camden County

Stalking has been a crime in New Jersey for a long time now, but recent changes have expanded the definition of stalking. The goal of these revisions is to better protect stalking victims in Camden County, as well as the rest of the state. Despite these good intentions, it's now easier for innocent individuals to face stalking charges or have a restraining order entered against them.

Just being charged with stalking in New Jersey can cause major problems. Besides hurting your reputation within the Camden County community, it could adversely affect your job and personal life. For example, you could see your children less often if you have shared custody.

This is why getting charged with stalking or learning that someone wants to get a restraining order against you requires you to take immediate action. Don't assume “the truth will come out,” as that doesn't always happen, and everything won't always be fine. However, consulting with the Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can change that and help you fight stalking charges made against you. Contact us by calling 888-535-3686 or using our online contact form.

Camden County Stalking

Whether you're in Camden, Mercer, or any other county in New Jersey, the same New Jersey stalking statutes apply. Under New Jersey law, criminal stalking may exist if a person:

  • Intentionally or knowingly commits an act that constitutes stalking;
  • Directs that act toward a specific person; and
  • That act causes a reasonable person to fear for their safety (or the safety of another) or causes significant emotional distress.

All of these elements must exist for a stalking conviction, although an exception exists for organized group picketing.

Components of a Stalking Charge in Camden County

To better understand how someone can be convicted of stalking in New Jersey, let's examine several components or requirements of the conviction.

First, the stalking must be intentional. In other words, there's no such thing as accidental stalking. To get convicted of stalking, the prosecutor must show that the defendant knew what they were doing.

Second, the act (or acts) leading to the stalking charge must qualify as stalking under New Jersey law. When most people imagine stalking, they picture a person following someone else as they drive or walk. Or maybe the stalker is waiting outside the victim's home or place of business.

Stalking can encompass far more activities than that, including online conduct, as well as tracking someone else's movement. It can also include making threats to the victim, harassing them, or interfering with their property. Stalking behavior can also be indirect or implied.

Third, a stalking conviction is more likely when there's repeated conduct. A single event can still lead to a stalking conviction or a restraining order in some cases, but a court is far more likely to issue the restraining order or convict a person of stalking if there's a pattern of conduct.

Showing repeated stalking behavior is more likely to get a conviction because it makes it easier for the prosecutor to argue that the conduct was intentional and constituted stalking. For example, imagine a person allegedly being stalked works as a dentist. The alleged stalker shows up at that person's office for their usual six-month cleaning appointment.

It would be hard (if not impossible) for the prosecutor to say this is stalking. But instead of showing up at the dentist's office once every six months, the alleged stalker shows up every day for two straight weeks, even without an appointment and for no apparent dental concern. Now, we not only have repeated behavior, but this behavior might be interpreted as an attempt to remain close to the victim, harass the victim, or monitor them.

Fourth, the stalking behavior must cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or cause them significant emotional distress. It's difficult to precisely define this component of stalking because people interpret things differently. A lot depends on the context, as it will help determine if the fear or emotional distress is reasonable.

Criminal Penalties for Stalking in Camden County

While a stalking conviction isn't the most serious criminal conviction, it's serious enough to potentially ruin your professional and personal life. Even the mere allegations of stalking could be enough to derail a promising career or harm your personal relationships.

Generally speaking, stalking charges in Camden County can result in either third or fourth-degree crimes. A stalking conviction of the fourth degree is the less serious of the two and could result in the following criminal penalties:

  • Up to 18 months in prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Probation
  • A stalking conviction getting placed on your criminal record

A stalking conviction of the third degree could result in more severe penalties, such as:

  • Three to five years in prison
  • Up to $15,000 in fines
  • Probation
  • A stalking conviction getting placed on your criminal record

What makes third-degree stalking different from fourth-degree stalking is that third-degree stalking occurs whenever any of the following also exists:

  • The stalking violates an existing court order prohibiting such behavior;
  • The stalker commits a second or subsequent stalking offense against the same victim or
  • The stalker commits the crime of stalking while serving a term of imprisonment, is on parole, or is on probation for any other indictable offense. This offense can be from New Jersey, another state, or the federal government.

One thing to note about stalking convictions in New Jersey is that they're separate from restraining orders. So, a criminal conviction isn't required to get a temporary or final restraining order, and vice versa. However, a restraining order being in effect at the time of the stalking could result in a more serious stalking charge and penalty.

Camden County Restraining Orders

The recent changes to the New Jersey stalking law allow individuals to obtain a restraining order against anyone, regardless of whether they have a relationship with that person. If a court grants a restraining order against someone, that person may not communicate or be within a certain distance of the individual asking for the restraining order. This restriction can apply to not just the alleged victim but also those close to the alleged victim, like family and friends.

There are two types of restraining orders in New Jersey: temporary and final (or permanent) restraining orders.

A temporary restraining order (TRO) is a restraining order granted for a relatively short period of time until the court can find a more permanent solution, such as a final restraining order.

A final restraining order (FRO) is like a TRO, but is permanent. Only an appeal or reconsideration by the judge granting the FRO will get the FRO removed. Courts will usually grant FROs when the court believes it's necessary to protect the alleged victim or if a particular criminal conviction requires it.

A judge will issue a Camden County TRO or FRO if either the plaintiff or defendant lives in Camden County. This includes temporary living arrangements, such as when the plaintiff is staying at a shelter.

Defending a Stalking Charge in Camden County

When establishing a legal defense to stalking charges, one way to do so is to argue that the alleged fear or emotional distress claimed by the victim isn't reasonable. Put another way, the defendant can argue that the victim is overly sensitive or that what the victim believes is conduct directed at them is due to some other cause.

Another approach is to argue that the victim is lying or, at the very least, isn't being 100% truthful about what's happening. The defendant can submit evidence that demonstrates that the victim is exaggerating or making up what they claimed happened to them.

What often happens in stalking cases is that there's something else going on that motivates the victim to claim they're being stalked. A coworker might make false accusations to hurt someone's chances of a promotion. Or a parent might falsely accuse the other parent of domestic violence or stalking to get full custody of their children.

While many claims of stalking are legitimate and New Jersey law is well-suited to protect victims, it also means innocent people have to deal with stalking charges. If someone is telling lies to get you in trouble for stalking, hiring an attorney can help you expose those untruths and prevent those false charges from ruining your life.

Pretrial Intervention Program

If the defendant facing a stalking charge is a first-time offender (they don't have a prior criminal conviction), then they may be eligible for entry into the Pretrial Intervention (PTI) program. The purpose of the PTI is to allow qualified defendants to avoid a criminal conviction and a subsequent criminal record. To be eligible for the PTI, a defendant must not have taken advantage of PTI or a similar diversionary program in the past. The defendant must also be charged with an eligible crime (such as third or fourth-degree stalking).

Once enrolled, the defendant must complete counseling, supervision, or other rehabilitative requirements aimed at preventing future problems with the law. The PTI program can last anywhere from six months to three years.

Even if someone meets these basic requirements for entry into the PTI program, they may still be rejected if their stalking charges stem from domestic violence or from violating a prior restraining order.

The Recent Changes to New Jersey Stalking Laws

The New Jersey legislature revised the existing stalking laws in 2023. In 2024, those changes went into effect, with the following two significant changes:

  • Allowing victims of stalking to obtain a restraining order against strangers. Until these amendments went into effect, victims of stalking could only get a restraining order against someone they knew, had a previous relationship with, or there was a related criminal conviction.
  • Making it easier for individuals to obtain a restraining order for not just stalking but online harassment.

These changes should offer greater protections to victims but can also lead to a higher number of false accusations, criminal charges, and convictions against innocent people in New Jersey.

The Camden County Court System

In Camden County, courts don't usually use the term “felony” to describe certain crimes, such as stalking. Instead, they call them “indictable offenses.” If someone is charged with an indictable offense, they will likely find themselves in the Camden County Superior Court, located at 101 South 5th Street in Camden, New Jersey.

Before getting to the Camden County Superior Court, a person charged with stalking will probably first find themselves in one of the 12 Municipal Courts found across the county. The Municipal Courts handle the preliminary hearing, and if the case goes to trial, it'll end up in Superior Court. If the decision from the Superior Court gets appealed, it will go before the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division.

Camden County Plea Deals

Like Superior Courts in other New Jersey counties, a defendant charged with stalking in Camden County can accept a plea deal instead of going to trial. This typically requires the defendant to plead guilty, but often to a lesser charge and an agreed-upon penalty.

The purpose of plea deals is to remove some of the uncertainty of trial, as well as speed up the prosecution process. While a plea deal can ensure a lighter sentence, it can still result in a criminal record, and the plea deal can't usually be appealed. Because of these drawbacks, prosecutors can't force a defendant to accept one.

Defend Yourself Against Stalking Charges and Restraining Orders

A New Jersey stalking conviction can lead to tens of thousands of dollars in fines, as well as several years in prison. As bad as this sounds, it doesn't include all of the negative consequences you could potentially face, like a lost job, lost custody, and a tarnished reputation within your community.

The moment you learn that someone is trying to get a restraining order against you or you've been charged with stalking, contact the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team. We have years of experience helping residents of Camden County fight stalking charges and restraining orders. We can advise you on the best course of action when dealing with the criminal courts and help you achieve the most fair and equitable result. You can reach us through our online contact form or by calling 888-535-3686.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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