Harassment As Grounds For A Restraining Order In New Jersey An Overview Of Reported Cases Part I

Under New Jersey domestic violence statute, for a party to obtain a Restraining Order there must be an act of domestic violence committed by the defendant as defined by the statute. There are fourteen acts under said statute that are defined as domestic violence. The offence of harassment is one of said fourteen acts and is the most used basis for granting a restraining order in New Jersey. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 a party commits an act of harassment if he or she does the following:

  1. With the purpose to harass another, makes or causes to be made a communication or communications in offensively coarse language, or at extremely inconvenient hours or anonymously, or any other manner likely to cause alarm and annoyance:
  2. With the purpose to harass, strikes, kicks, shoves or commits other offensive touching, or threatens to do so; or
  3. With the purpose to harass another, engages in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with the purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other party.

As seen from the cases below, Domestic Violence Restraining Orders based on harassment are very fact sensitive. In the case of State V. Hoffman., 149 N.J. 564 (1997) there were many restraining orders and violations against the former husband. He pled guilty to criminal trespass, contempt and was sentenced to 365 days in jail. While in jail he mailed a torn-up support order along with a Notice of Motion to modify support and a financial statement by certified and regular mail. The former wife filed a complaint against the former husband for sending the two torn up orders. The court in Hoffman court defined purposely as follows: “A person acts purposely with respect to the nature of his conduct or a result thereof if it is his conscious object to engage in conduct of that nature or cause such a result” Id at 577 (quoting N.J.S.A. 2C:2-2(b)(1)).The court in Hoffman held that the former husband did not violate the harassment statute by mailing the two torn orders to his former wife.

In the case Corrente v.Corrente., 281 N.J. Super. 243 (App.Div.1994) the court held that a husband who was separated from his wife did not commit harassment by calling her at her place of employment threatening drastic measures if she did not supply him with money to pay the family’s monthly bills. Consequently, the husband turned off the wife’s phone. The court in Corrente did not find that the husband had intent to harass the wife by calling her at work. Id. at 249. The court held that neither the phone calls nor turning off the phone (which the husband remedied by having the phone restored in her own name) were not acts which could be “characterized as alarming or seriously annoying”. Id. The court found that the parties did not have any history of domestic violence, and the matter was a conflict over finances and possession over the marital residence and not domestic violence. Id at 250.

Please see Part II and Part III of this article located on this website that continue the review of the relevant case law in regard to harassment as basis of receiving a restraining order under the domestic statute. If you have any questions concerning a domestic violence case, please call NJ divorce lawyer Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for a free 30 minute in office consultation.

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