NJ Stalking Lawyer
Criminal Defense Attorney Helps Clients Accused of Stalking in New Jersey
A criminal conviction for stalking in New Jersey could have long-lasting consequences, including a prison sentence and a permanent criminal record. That is why anyone who has been charged with stalking, or any other threat crime or violent crime, needs to speak with a qualified NJ stalking lawyer as soon as possible. Whether the criminal charges against you stem from a domestic dispute, an argument with a neighbor, or some other underlying set of facts, it is imperative that you have qualified legal representation. You do not want to be sentenced to prison, nor do you want to be branded with the stigma of a stalking conviction for the rest of your life.
Frank T. Luciano is an accomplished criminal defense attorney who represents clients in Paramus, Hackensack, Fort Lee, and everywhere else in New Jersey. If you have been charged with stalking in NJ, contact Mr. Luciano now to schedule a free initial consultation about your case.
N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10 – New Jersey Stalking Statute
Stalking is addressed in the NJ criminal code by N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10. The stalking laws in New Jersey are notoriously broad, which means that a lot of conduct that might otherwise be considered merely “annoying” can actually be interpreted by NJ law enforcement as “stalking.” In fact, a lot of stalking charges arise from circumstances that could easily result in lesser charges, or in no criminal charges at all.
As set forth by N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10, a person can be charged with stalking when they direct a course of conduct at the victim in such a way that the victim might reasonably fear for their safety or suffer emotional distress. Legally speaking, what does this mean? It might be best to consider a typical NJ stalking charge in terms of the elements that the prosecution must prove at trial. In order to secure a conviction in a stalking case, the prosecutor must establish that:
- The defendant engaged in a course of conduct that involved repeated acts. This means that the defendant must have directed a threatening communication or other form of threatening behavior at the victim on at least two (2) occasions. If the alleged threat only happened once, then a charge for harassment, instead of stalking, may be more appropriate.
- The defendant’s acts would have caused a reasonable person to fear for their safety or to suffer emotional distress. The court will use what is known as a “reasonable person standard” and consider how a normal person might have reacted to the defendant’s actions.
What this means for anyone who has been accused of stalking is that, under New Jersey law, a lot of behavior can technically be construed as stalking and give rise to criminal charges for stalking and other threat crimes. This can include communications between spouses during an argument, statements directed at a family member or friend, and even messages sent to someone through a cell phone, computer, or other electronic device.
Severe Penalties for Stalking Conviction in New Jersey
The New Jersey criminal code classifies stalking as a crime (i.e., felony), as opposed to a disorderly persons offense (i.e., misdemeanor). This is a very important distinction for anyone who has been charged with stalking because criminal charges can result in the offender being sentenced to significant prison time, while non-violent disorderly persons offense charges often do not result in any jail time at all. A person who has been charged with stalking in NJ will have their case heard by a judge or jury in the Superior Court in the county where the charges were filed. Anyone who faces these types of charges in the Superior Court will almost certainly see their chances of success greatly enhanced if they are represented by a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer.
Most stalking offenses in NJ are considered fourth degree crimes. If the accused person was on parole or probation at the time of the alleged stalking incident, the stalking charge can be elevated to a third degree crime. The specific penalties for stalking are determined by the classification:
- Third Degree Stalking: 3-5 years in NJ state prison
- Fourth Degree Stalking: up to 18 months in NJ state prison
Stalking convictions are also typically accompanied by a permanent restraining order. If you are convicted of stalking in New Jersey, you will likely also be barred from contacting the victim again in the future. Keep in mind that even if you avoid conviction in criminal court, you may still be subject to a final restraining order (FRO) because restraining orders are technically considered civil matters, not criminal matters.
Related Charges: Stalking, Harassment, and Terroristic Threats in Paramus, NJ
A domestic violence incident can result in an accused person being charged with multiple criminal offenses, depending on the underlying facts of the case. For example, if the offender is accused of brandishing a firearm or some other deadly weapon while threatening the victim, then it’s possible that the offender may face both threat crime charges and gun crime charges.
On the spectrum of threat crime charges covered by the NJ criminal code, stalking lies somewhere in the middle: just before terroristic threats and just after harassment. Terroristic threat charges carry the most severe penalty of 10 years in prison, harassment charges carry the least severe penalty of 18 months in jail, and stalking carries a penalty somewhere in between. There may be an opportunity for a skilled criminal defense attorney to reduce your prison exposure by getting the charges downgraded from stalking to a lesser offense like harassment. Of course, this will depend on the exact circumstances of your case.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Experienced Fort Lee Stalking Attorney Frank T. Luciano
Have you been charged with stalking, harassment, or any other threat crime in New Jersey? You should contact Frank T. Luciano, a criminal defense lawyer with experience handling these types of cases in Bergen County, Passaic County, and Hudson County courtrooms. Call or email Mr. Luciano now to schedule a free initial consultation about your case.