Is Verbal Abuse a Crime?

Arguments among spouses, partners, or family members are not uncommon. When things get heated, sometimes people make unpleasant or hurtful comments they don’t mean. However, these comments can be verbal abuse when these arguments happen repeatedly. Severe cases of verbal abuse may qualify as a crime under New Jersey state law.

If you have been arrested for alleged verbal abuse, get the legal representation you need to protect your rights. The legal team at Keith Oliver Criminal Law is here to help. Our firm focuses exclusively on criminal defense and represents clients facing charges of domestic violence, sex crimes, and other criminal offenses.

Reach out to us for a free consultation to discuss how our experienced criminal defense lawyers can help you fight your charges.

What Is Verbal or Emotional Abuse?

Verbal and emotional abuse have a few crucial distinctions. Emotional abuse involves behavior intended to threaten, embarrass, or humiliate a person to control them. Although verbal abuse can fall under emotional abuse, non-verbal behaviors can also inflict emotional abuse, such as menacing looks or physical intimidation.

Verbal abuse specifically involves using verbal intimidation to make threatening, alarming, degrading, or offensive statements to a victim or in the victim’s presence. This abuse allows them to exert emotional power or control over the victim.

Is Verbal Abuse Considered Domestic Violence?

In New Jersey, verbal abuse must meet specific criteria to be considered domestic violence under state law. The abuse must occur in the context of a relationship that is protected by New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. The act applies whenever an offense is committed by someone who has a qualifying relationship with the victim. Qualifying relationships include the following:

  • Marriage, including spouses who are separated or divorced
  • A dating, romantic, or intimate relationship
  • A couple who live in the same residence or previously lived together
  • A couple who has or is expecting a child together

Both the perpetrator and victim of domestic violence must also be at least 18 years old or be a minor that is legally emancipated, married, in the military, or has or is expecting a child.

Can You Go to Jail for Verbal Abuse?

While rude or offensive comments do not always rise to the level of verbal abuse, certain types of statements can be criminal under New Jersey law. Verbal abuse that is a crime includes the following:

  • Assault Verbal abuse can be assault when it makes someone fear imminent bodily harm or offensive contact.
  • Terroristic threats Threatening to kill another person to put the victim in imminent fear of death due to the immediacy of the threat or the likelihood they will carry it out is a crime.
  • Harassment Verbal abuse can include communications that use offensive language, occur at extremely inconvenient hours, or are designed to annoy or alarm the target of the communications. This harassment also covers threats to touch someone without their consent or repeated attempts to annoy or alarm another person.
  • Criminal coercion Using verbal abuse to restrict someone’s freedom of action is considered criminal coercion. This can be by any action intended to substantially harm another person’s health, safety, relationships, or reputation.

Verbal abuse may also result in criminal charges when the perpetrator’s behavior violates a protective or restraining order in NJ.

How Long Could I Be in Jail for a Verbal Abuse Charge in NJ?

If you are convicted of committing a crime through verbal abuse, the length of the sentence you receive will depend on the “grading” of the offense. Many verbal abuse charges are graded as a “disorderly persons offense,” also known as a misdemeanor. These offenses carry a maximum sentence of up to six months in jail.

However, more serious charges are graded as indictable offenses, also known as felonies. Sentences for indictable crimes are:

  • Fourth-degree felony — Up to 18 months in prison
  • Third-degree felony — 3 to 5 years in prison
  • Second-degree felony — 5 to 10 years in prison
  • First-degree felony — Up to 20 years in prison

How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney in New Jersey Help Me?

When you’re facing charges arising from alleged verbal abuse, the New Jersey criminal defense attorneys with Keith Oliver Criminal Law can defend you by:

  • Investigating your case to secure crucial evidence, rather than simply relying on the evidence turned over by the prosecution
  • Reviewing the facts of the case and your arrest to identify potential factual and legal defenses
  • Discussing your case with you to ensure you understand your legal options, potential outcomes, and what to expect at each stage of the prosecution
  • Helping you determine the best possible result and the strategy to reach it
  • Protecting your rights from violations by police or prosecutors
  • Negotiating with prosecutors on your behalf, when appropriate, to seek a reduction or dismissal of your charges
  • Testing the prosecution’s case in court by filing motions to exclude evidence or dismiss the case
  • Advocating on your behalf if you go to trial on your charges to fight for an acquittal

Contact the NJ Criminal Lawyers at Keith Oliver Criminal Law to Defend You

Charges for verbal and emotional abuse can seriously impact your life. A conviction can result in prison time, fines, and restraining orders. But you don’t have to face the New Jersey criminal justice system alone. Contact Keith Oliver Criminal Law today for a free and confidential case evaluation to review your legal options with our NJ criminal lawyers.

Keith Oliver

Founding partner Keith G. Oliver has a passion for helping people who are caught up in the criminal justice system. He believes that everyone has a right to be presumed innocent, and that one mistake shouldn’t define a person forever. This passion drives Mr. Oliver to tirelessly fight for his clients and pursue the best possible outcome in every case.