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Understanding New Jersey stalking laws

Stalking is a common occurrence in New Jersey and elsewhere. Often, the person who is accused of this is unaware that his or her behavior qualifies as stalking and that criminal charges can result. It is important for residents to understand the different behaviors that qualify as stalking, as well as the penalties one can face for a conviction.

The National Center for Victims of Crime defines stalking as a repetitive behavior that makes the target feel uncomfortable, intimidated, annoyed and/or frightened for his or her safety. Often, the person who is accused of stalking is a former spouse or partner. The alleged stalker may have unreciprocated romantic feelings for the target, might have difficult moving on after a relationship is over or could harbor feelings of resentment from a slight or offense. Stalking can involve the person following the other, repeatedly calling the target at home, school or work or contacting the person through email, text message and social media.

According to FindLaw, a stalking conviction is a crime of the fourth degree. Stalking becomes a crime of the third degree in the following situations:

  • The person is serving time in jail or is on parole or probation.
  • The victim has a court order restricting the alleged offender from contacting or approaching him or her.
  • The alleged stalker has a second or subsequent charge of stalking against the same person.

Understanding the definitions and consequences of stalking behavior may help one avoid being charged with a crime. However, those who are facing charges have the right to a fair defense.

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