NJ Harassment Lawyer
Criminal Defense Attorney Represents Clients Charged with Harassment in New Jersey
Any good NJ harassment lawyer can tell you that innocent people get charged with harassment all the time. A minor miscommunication might quickly escalate into something more serious, resulting in an arrest and criminal charges. While there is a clear legal distinction between harassing conduct and merely insensitive conduct or words, New Jersey law enforcement doesn’t always make this distinction. Instead, NJ police officers who get called to a residence for a domestic violence complaint, or for some other reason, often err on the side of protecting the alleged victim and arresting the alleged offender for a threat crime or a violent crime.
Have you been charged with harassment in Paramus, Hackensack, Mahwah, or elsewhere in NJ? Frank T. Luciano is an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you contest the charges and stay out of jail. Contact Mr. Luciano today to schedule a free initial consultation.
N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 – Harassment Charges in New Jersey
Criminal charges for harassment in New Jersey are addressed by N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4. The criminal statute defines “harassment” in three different ways, which means that a person can be charged with harassment for a variety of actions or conduct. Any of the following acts can give rise to a harassment charge in NJ:
- Alarming Communications: The defendant communicated with the victim anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, in offensively coarse language, or in any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm.
- Threat of Physical Violence: The defendant threatened to subject the victim to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching.
- Any Other Course of Conduct: The defendant engaged in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other person.
Keep in mind that the communications that can give rise to a harassment charge in New Jersey do not necessarily have to occur in person. In fact, many harassment offenses involve threatening or alarming communications made via email, text, or phone. For example, if you are accused of repeatedly calling or texting the alleged victim during late hours, this could be construed as harassment and result in you being criminally charged. Additionally, the last type of conduct specified in the harassment statute – “any other course of alarming conduct” – is sufficiently broad enough to apply to just about any action. This give NJ prosecutors significant flexibility when deciding whether to bring charges for harassment.
What Are the Penalties for Harassment in New Jersey?
Most harassment charges are considered petty disorderly persons offenses (i.e., misdemeanors). What does this mean for a person who has been charged with harassment in New Jersey? Since these types of harassment charges are petty disorderly persons offenses – not crimes – the cases are heard by a judge in the local municipal court of the city or town where the harassment is alleged to have occurred. A defendant who is convicted of harassment in municipal court can be punished with a sentence of up to 30 days in jail, as well as a fine of up to $500.
NJ harassment charges are not always disorderly persons offenses. Depending on the defendant’s prior criminal record, a harassment charge can potentially be classified as a fourth degree crime (i.e., felony) that is heard in the Superior Court. This means that the penalties are far more severe: up to 18 months in NJ state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. These enhanced criminal charges and penalties may apply if the defendant was already serving a term of imprisonment or was on parole or probation at the time of the alleged harassment.
Related Charges: Harassment and Stalking in NJ
Although the penalties for a harassment conviction or guilty plea are severe and can include jail time, harassment is not the most serious threat crime charge that a person can face in New Jersey. In fact, harassment charges often start out as much more serious stalking charges – before a qualified criminal defense lawyer is able to get the charges downgraded from stalking to harassment. If you are charged with stalking – which typically involves the same behavior or conduct as harassment but occurs more than once – you could be charged with a fourth degree or even third degree crime. A conviction on third degree stalking charges carries a sentence of 3-5 years in NJ state prison.
The good news is that an accomplished NJ criminal defense attorney can help you contest stalking charges and, depending on the factual circumstances of your case, may be able to get the charges reduced to a petty disorderly persons offense. Not only does this mean that your case will be transferred from the Superior Court to municipal court, but the maximum penalties in your case will no longer include prison time. Moreover, since there is a presumption of non-incarceration for harassment charges in New Jersey, it is very possible that you will be able to avoid jail time altogether and keep your record clear of a criminal conviction.
Contesting Your Harassment Charges in Paramus, NJ
A skilled attorney who understands the NJ criminal code can help you contest your harassment charges. When it comes time to decide a typical harassment case, NJ judges may consider certain factors: the relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim, the time and location of the communications between the two parties, and the intent of the defendant when communicating with the alleged victim. For instance, the judge may determine that your reason for calling or emailing the alleged victim was legitimate: perhaps you were attempting to resolve a child custody issue or some other related matter.
Frank T. Luciano is an aggressive litigator who will fight for you in the courtroom. In addition to persuasively arguing on his clients’ behalf at trial, Mr. Luciano also knows how to negotiate with prosecutors in advance of trial. To learn more about what you might expect from Mr. Luciano in your harassment case, visit the Client Testimonials section on this website.
Contact an Experienced Elmwood Park Criminal Defense Attorney About Your Harassment Case
If you face harassment charges in Bergen County, Passaic County, Hudson County, or anywhere else in NJ, you should contact Frank T. Luciano today. Mr. Luciano is a knowledgeable New Jersey criminal defense attorney with decades of experience. Call or email Mr. Luciano now.