New Jersey Harassment Defense Lawyer

     Harassment is one of the most common offenses charged in NJ.  This situation often occurs in the context of a relationship gone sour and is even one of the predicate offenses for a Domestic Violence order under N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17.  Even outside the context of a domestic violence order, the penalties for a Harassment charge can follow you the rest of your life through your criminal record.    

What are the Penalties for Harassment in NJ?

In NJ, Harassment charges can be a crime of the fourth degree, or a Petty Disorderly Persons offense.

In most cases it is a Petty Disorderly Persons offense and carries a possible $500 fine and thirty days in jail.

If the offender was on parole or incarcerated at the time of the alledged harassment, the offense can carry a $10,000 fine and 18 months in prison, in addition to other penalties for violation of parole.

Can I fight my Harassment Charge?

To properly defend your harassment case, a criminal defense attorney must be familiar with all aspects an assault case may take on; from disproving elements of the States case, to having evidence suppressed.   With over 40 years experience as a Judge, Prosecutor, and Criminal Defense Lawyer, the Attorneys of Avery & Avery know how to keep you out of trouble.  As Criminal Defense Lawyers, we have mastered the identification of flaws in the States case, and will work with you to either avoid a criminal conviction, or have the case thrown out completely.  

What is Harassment?

In its simplest form, harassment is almost any conduct that will annoy or alarm another person.  This can take many forms, and ranges anywhere from constant phone calls to hitting someone.  These are fact sensitive cases and require scrutiny by an experienced criminal defense attorney.  

The following is a a copy of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, the NJ harrassment law:

Except as provided in subsection e., a person commits a petty disorderly persons offense if, with purpose to harass another, he:

  • a. Makes, or causes to be made, a communication or communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm;
  • b. Subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so; or
  • c. Engages in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other person.*
  • A communication under subsection a. may be deemed to have been made either at the place where it originated or at the place where it was received.
  • d. (Deleted by amendment, P.L.2001, c. 443).
  • e. A person commits a crime of the fourth degree if, in committing an offense under this section, he was serving a term of imprisonment or was on parole or probation as the result of a conviction of any indictable offense under the laws of this State, any other state or the United States.

* There is new case law which in many caess, severly curtails the use of the harassment statute.  See below for an explanation.

How can a lawyer help me?

To be found guilty of a crime in NJ, the State must be able to demonstrate all elements of the charge.  One element of a harassment charge is an intent to harass.  While you may have had an intent to communicate, there may not have been an intent to purposefully harass.  

The courts must also prove that the communication was of such a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm.  While there are many plainly offensive communications, even seemingly minor things can be deemed harassment by the court.  The court decides this after looking at the totality of the circumstances and the relationship between the parties.  

Often times our clients are accused of harassment, when they were being nothing but kind to the 'victim'.  Other times they may have inadvertantly pushed a boundary in anger or in carelessness.  In either event, over the past 40 years the Criminal Defense team of Avery & Avery has been, helping our clients accused of Harassment avoid jail, fines, restraining orders, and criminal records with one of the highest success rates in NJ.  If you have been accused of Harassment in NJ, please call today for a free consulation.

Frequently Asked Questions

****All I did was curse at them, isn’t that free speech?

If this was an everyday interaction of road rage on the street or other minor dispute, then yes you certainly are allowed to do so.  That is not to say that the police may not occasionally charge people for harassment for this sort of conduct.  Usually this sort of thing is charged under subsection C. of the harassment law.  This section is generally overbroad and criminalizes conduct that is protected under the first amendmend of both New Jersey’s and the Federal Constitutions.  As such, simple bad words cannot support a harassment charge.

What if I was only trying to help them?

These cases are very fact sensitive and a full review of the case is needed to assess it.  It is common to be charged with harassment even if subjectively someone only had good intent.  In general, however, Judges will enter a finding of guilty if the defendant was told to stop whatever they were doing, and they didn't.  

What if they never told me to stop?

Telling someone to stop their communication or actions is not a prerequisite of the offense.  If the actions were enough or often enough to cause alarm or annoyance in the 'victim', that is enough to be found guilty of harassment.  Even so there may be many defenses to this including prior consistant acceptable conduct.  If you believe you are not guilty of harrassment, we invite you to contact our offices for a free consult and review of your case to determine its defensibility. 

If they have caught me and there are no defenses, what can I do?

In some situations the police have caught the defendant dead to rights and there are no defenses.  In situations like these we have often been successful in downgrading the offense to a far lesser penalty and no jail time.  Another approach is to enter our client into a diversionary program such as Pre Trial Intervention or Conditional Discharge.  These programs provide the benefit of no jail time and no criminal record.  We have been successful with combinations of the two as well when dealing with high level offenders.

What do I tell the police? 

We give the same answer to all clients regarding all criminal charges, say nothing; until you talk to your NJ Criminal Defense Lawyer.

Will this be on my record?

Unless the offense is of the 4th degree, it is not considered 'criminal' under New Jersey law. A conviction for harassment however will be on your record, and is often looked at negatively by employers.  You may however state that you have not been convicted of a crime if you are convicted only of a petty disorderly harrassment charge.

How will my harassment charge affect my immigration status?

This is not a simple question.  Depending on what your status is, and what your charges are, there can be vast consequences including deportation from the United States.  Generally, most criminal convictions are extremely dangerous to your immigration status and may result in deportation, excludability, or ineligibility for citizenship.

I had a restraining order, but they contacted me, what happens?

As far as harassment goes this would be a defense.  For harassment to exist, the defendant must be the one alleged to have initiated the contact.

I have been caught on this before, are there any additional penalties?

The courts have a range of authority in sentencing and will generally increase your penalties for harassment the more times you are caught.  For a first offense you may get minimum penalties, for a third offense they may give you the maximum prison times.   In repeat offenses especially if a restraining order has been entered, you may be subject to a Contempt of Court charge.

The 'victim' was my spouse, relative, or friend, is this still harassment?

It doesn't matter who the person was, harassment is harassment in New Jersey.  In fact the consequences in these situations may further subject you to domestic violence charges.  For more information on this, see here.

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