Stalking Criminal Defense in Middlesex County

Stalking is a serious offense in New Jersey; anyone convicted can spend over a year in prison and face thousands of dollars in fines. At the same time, accusations alone can damage someone's reputation, and restraining orders outside the criminal justice system can restrict the accused's life.

Due to changes to New Jersey stalking laws in 2023, the risks of false accusations of stalking have never been higher. Middlesex County residents accused of stalking, even without evidence, need to be proactive when defending their names and never assume that the truth will prevail. Successfully defending yourself against criminal charges can also go a long way in rebuilding your reputation, giving you something to point to when faced with pushback due to previous accusations.

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has represented hundreds of New Jersey residents accused of serious crimes, such as stalking, that threaten their future happiness and freedom. Call us today at 888-535-3686 or fill out our confidential online form to start the process of defending yourself from stalking accusations in Middlesex County.

Stalking in Middlesex County

Anyone in Middlesex County accused of stalking must defend themselves by rebutting specific aspects of New Jersey's statewide stalking laws. New Jersey classifies stalking as:

  • Purposefully or knowingly behaving or engaging in a course of conduct
  • Directing that conduct at a specific person
  • Acting in a way that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress or fear for the safety of themself or another

Prosecutors must prove that all these elements were present to secure a conviction.

Purposefully or Knowingly

A valid defense to stalking charges is arguing that the accused did not intend for any behavior. Under the current definition of the law, stalking is a purposeful act that cannot happen by accident. Even if the accused followed someone to multiple locations, they are not guilty of stalking if this was entirely accidental and not planned.

Course of Conduct

When people think of stalking, they typically imagine a shrouded figure lurking in the shadows, following an innocent victim to their home, workplace, or school. However, New Jersey recognizes a wide array of behaviors and activities that count as stalking when all other aspects of the crime are present, including:

  • Maintaining physical or visual proximity to someone
  • Harassing someone
  • Threats, either verbal or written
  • Implied or explicit threats communicated through conduct, behavior, and communication
  • Directly, indirectly, or by third-party tools:
    • Following
    • Observing
    • Monitoring
    • Threatening
    • Surveilling
    • Interfering with someone's property
    • Communicating to someone or about someone

With this broad list of conduct, stalking can encompass online harassment and surveillance, in-person behavior, and implicit threats. Don't assume that charges against you are bogus just because your behavior does not neatly match the definition many of us associate with the term stalking.


Similar to how no one can accidentally stalk someone, stalking must include a pattern of activity and more than one instance of behavior. The accused stalker must have purposefully undertaken a set of multiple behaviors to fit the definition of the crime. One awkward or uncomfortable interaction in public isn't enough for someone to have a valid case for stalking.

Keep in mind that even if each behavior occurs once, prosecutors can argue it is repeated if different behaviors all fall into the same pattern of stalking. For example, surveilling someone online, monitoring them from a distance in public, and interfering with their property could count as stalking, even though each conduct was a one-time behavior.

Emotional Distress

Emotional distress is a complicated aspect of New Jersey stalking statutes due to how nebulous the term is. New Jersey defines emotional distress as actions or behaviors that cause someone significant mental suffering or distress, but how is this calculated or measured?

The standard set by New Jersey requires that an average person reasonably understand why the actions could cause fear or distress in someone else. However, when emotional responses vary so much from person to person, it can be extremely tough to argue against a victim's feelings. Defending against stalking charges often means identifying lies or showcasing how the recollection of events has changed over time.

Exaggerations and False Accusations of Stalking

In New Jersey, even an allegation of stalking is enough to cause reputational damage. When presented with the power to get revenge on someone they don't like with a single accusation, some people unfortunately exaggerate and lie about their experiences.

While some situations lend themselves more often to false accusations than others, they can come from anywhere. In custody battles or divorces, exes may accuse each other of stalking to gain the upper hand. In workplaces, stalking accusations are sometimes enough to tank a colleague's promotion prospects. In any competitive environment, accusations allow someone to get ahead of someone they see as a threat.

False accusations of stalking for petty reasons may seem insane until they happen to you. New Jersey stalking laws need to protect victims, but they shouldn't place the accused on the back foot or prevent them from defending themselves. Defending against charges requires showing the truth of the matter and combatting lies against you.

The Lento Law Firm understands how common false accusations are and how damaging they can be. If someone is lying about you and jeopardizing your future, contact our Criminal Defense Team to learn how we can help shine a light on the truth.

Updates to Stalking Laws in Middlesex County

New Jersey updated its stalking laws effective 2024, expanding protections for victims. The primary changes were:

  • A name change, updated to the Victim's Assistance and Survivor Protection Act
  • Expanded ability for victims of stalking to obtain restraining orders even if there does not exist an existing relationship between the two parties
  • More viable grounds for filing and obtaining restraining orders, now including stalking and cyber harassment

Most of these changes aimed to modernize the law and address issues commonly faced by victims in the state. For example, someone with a stalker they did not know could not easily obtain a restraining order under the previous law. In addition, expanding the grounds for a restraining order provides victims more options in the modern age, where cyber harassment and stalking are more common than ever.

Despite the benefits, many critics of the new law are worried that expanded rights for victims come at the cost of the rights of the accused. With more options for obtaining restraining orders and levying accusations of stalking, innocent people may be caught in the crossfire.

The Lento Law Firm represented many New Jersey residents accused of stalking before these changes, and we have continued vigorously representing clients in this new legal landscape. If you are being charged with stalking, our Criminal Defense Team can protect you from the new ammunition provided to false accusers.

Middlesex County Stalking Penalties

The criminal penalties for stalking don't compare to serious violent crimes like assault or murder, but they are still significant enough to negatively impact your life in the short and long term. New Jersey charges stalking as a crime of the fourth degree or crime of the third degree, with fourth-degree crimes being less severe.

By default, behavior that meets the elements of stalking is a crime of the fourth degree, and the penalties can be up to:

  • 18 months in prison
  • $10,000 in fines
  • Probation
  • Charge on your criminal record

Prosecutors can charge stalking as a crime of the third degree if it meets one of the following criteria:

  • The stalking occurs while someone is on parole or probation or serving a term of imprisonment, in New Jersey, another state, or due to federal charges
  • The stalking occurs after an existing court order
  • The accused has already committed stalking offenses against this victim

For a crime of the third degree, penalties will increase, with prison time between three to five years and fines of up to $15,000. Regardless of the offense level, judges can issue a permanent or final restraining order (FRO) against convicted stalkers.

Pretrial Intervention Program

If prosecutors are charging you with stalking, you may qualify for New Jersey's Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI). Through enrollment in PTI, you can avoid a criminal conviction and prevent the alleged stalking from giving you a criminal record.

Not everyone qualifies for PTI, including those already enrolled in PTI or similar programs in other states. Only certain criminal charges are eligible, and people who may pose a risk to the public or their victims may face issues attempting to enroll. Middlesex County prosecutors may need to approve your enrollment before PTI is granted.

County probation officers oversee those enrolled in PTI in Middlesex County, providing counseling, supervision, and assistance as they go through the program. Middlesex County's probation office is located at:

189 New Street, PO Box 789

New Brunswick, New Jersey

732-645-4300 ext. 88482

Determining whether PTI is the right option or whether you qualify can be challenging when already dealing with the stress of accusations. The Lento Law Firm has worked with clients as they enroll in PTI and can assist you as you figure out your next steps.

Restraining Orders in Middlesex County

Due to the recent updates to New Jersey law, valid grounds for a restraining order include stalking, even when a previous relationship does not exist. New Jersey issues two types of restraining orders:

  • Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO)
  • Permanent, or Final, Restraining Order (FRO)

Sometimes, courts allow for emergency filings of restraining orders to protect victims from harm. Whatever the situation, any restraining order will limit the rights of the accused, preventing them from communicating or being in physical proximity to the filer.

In New Jersey, a plaintiff filing a restraining order can do so in their home county, where the defendant lives, or where the plaintiff stays temporarily. However, after the county issues the restraining order, the limits apply throughout the state, and New Jersey also recognizes restraining orders from elsewhere in the country.

Restraining orders can follow you as you move or attempt to rebuild your life away from the accusations. Before accusations and restraining orders rise to the level of criminal charges, contact the Lento Law Firm to learn more about your options for defense.

Middlesex County Court System

Stalking is an indictable offense in New Jersey, with stalking offenses in Middlesex overseen by the Middlesex County Superior Court in New Brunswick. Anyone accused of stalking who goes to trial will have their day in court at this location under the auspices of the Criminal Division. The Criminal Division also handles appeals for lower court sentences.

Plea Deals in Middlesex County

Before you end up before a judge in the Superior Court, you can opt for a plea deal. In most cases, prosecutors want plea deals to speed up the process, secure convictions, and limit workload. When you accept a plea deal, you typically plead guilty to a lower-level crime than the prosecutors would charge at trial.

Plea deals aren't for everyone in every situation. For starters, plea deals do not allow for appeals. If you want to prove your innocence, you cannot accept a plea to lessen your punishment and appeal later. At the same time, going to court instead of taking a plea deal can lead to a conviction of a much more serious offense if your defense isn't rock solid.

When you accept a plea, you give your attorneys more control over how they can protect you from charges. Negotiations before a trial are the only time your attorneys can directly work to limit your punishment instead of simply defending against charges. If you are weighing your options, contact the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team to get the help you need to secure your future.

Stalking Defense Attorney in Middlesex County

An accusation of stalking is not something you can just ignore. Even if it is baseless, you must systematically disprove each element of the criminal charge and prevent unfounded accusations from ruining your reputation and professional career.

The Lento Law Firm can spring into action as soon as you are accused of stalking to craft a strong defense and get your life back to normal. Contact our Criminal Defense Team today by providing your details online or by calling us at 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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