Stalking And The NJ Domestic Violence Statute
In New Jersey stalking is considered a crime under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Statute. Domestic violence is defined as the occurrence of certain acts inflicted upon a person by someone who is close to that person, such as a spouse, former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or other members of your household. The acts that constitute domestic violence include, but are not limited to: homicide, assault, criminal restraint, sexual assault, harassment, and stalking.Stalking Defined
The statute defines stalking as “purposefully or knowingly engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his safety or the safety of a third person or suffer other emotional distress.”
To break down the definition, the phrase ‘course of conduct’ as used in the stalking definition means: repeatedly maintaining a visual or physical proximity to a person; using any means (including third parties or electronic devices) to follow, monitor, observe, servile, threaten, or communicate to or about, a person, or interfere with a person's property; or repeated harassment. The term ‘repeatedly’ as used in the definition means two or more times, and ‘cause a reasonable person to fear’ means that another reasonable person in the same situation would be fearful.
Following someone around, watching them from a nearby location, and intentionally showing up at locations that the stalker knows the person will be in order to watch that person are common examples of stalking.Degrees of the Crime of Stalking
Under the New Jersey Domestic Violence Statute, stalking is a crime of either the third or fourth degree. The definition above is a crime of the fourth degree. A person may be convicted of stalking in the third degree if he stalks someone either a) in violation of an existing court order prohibiting him from the behavior, or b) if the crime is committed while in prison or on parole or probation.Punishment for Stalking
A person who has been stalked under the definition of the New Jersey domestic violence statute may receive a permanent restraining order against the stalker. Stalking in the fourth degree is punishable by up to 18 months in prison, whereas stalking in the third degree is punishable by up to 5 years in prison.Electronic Stalking
Stalking is most readily understood as when a person follows or watches another person, but modern technology creates new ways for stalking to take place. For example, using a GPS tracking device to find out the whereabouts of a former spouse has been found to be “stalking” under the statute. L.A.V.H v. R.J.V.H.
Domestic violence cases are very serious and complex. If you need help with a domestic violence case, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for a free consultation.Sources
New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991
N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10, 10.1, 10.2
L.A.V.H. v. R.J.V.H., No. A-6292-09T4 (N.J. Super. 2011).