Whether you have been accused of stalking a stranger, a loved one, a friend or an acquaintance, it is crucial that you speak to an experienced Somerset County criminal defense lawyer about your options. Regardless of the parties involved, stalking is a felony criminal offense in New Jersey and one that should not be taken lightly. The allegations could also fall under New Jersey’s domestic violence prevention act, which certainly adds to the severity of the situation. If you have been charged with stalking, harassment, terroristic threats, simple assault, criminal mischief or been served a temporary restraining order (TRO) the attorneys at Keith Oliver Criminal Law can help. We have been appearing in courts throughout the State, including Somerset County for years now defending clients accused of stalking.
Need to Consult with a Local Bridgewater Lawyer about a Stalking Case
At Keith Oliver Criminal Law, we fully understand the stress and anxiety that an individual feels when they are being charged with a criminal offense. The unknowns and the potential exposure that one is facing when charged with stalking in New Jersey can be downright terrifying. If you would like to speak to one of our Somerset County criminal defense attorneys today than please contact us. We can go over the specific facts of your case and we will give you our honest feedback on we think we can be of assistance. Our office serves all of Somerset County, including towns like Bridgewater, Somerville, Bernards, Bedminster, South Bound Brook, Hillsborough, North Plainfield and Raritan. If you do not have to deal with these charges alone. Let the criminal defense attorneys at Keith Oliver Criminal Law help. To speak to one of our attorneys immediately please call (908) 533-1064. As always, our initial consultations are free of costs.
How Serious is a Stalking Case in New Jersey: NJSA 2C:12-10
As touched upon above, the offense of stalking is either a third or fourth degree felony offense in New Jersey. The underlying facts surrounding the incident will dictate what degree of stalking a Defendant is ultimately charged with. It is important to note here that stalking could also be considered a crime of domestic violence pursuant to New Jersey’s Domestic Violence Prevention Act. If the alleged victim is classified as a victim of domestic violence then they could be entitled to enhanced protections by way of a temporary restraining order (TRO). If a TRO is granted, this would be in addition to the criminal charges. Meaning the individual will be forced to deal with the criminal charges in the Criminal Division of the Superior Court of the County where the incident happened and the restraining order in the Chancery Division, Family Part of the Superior Court of the County where the incident happened. For more information on domestic violence stalking charges, please click the link.
What You Should Know About Stalking Cases in New Jersey
NJSA 2C:12-10 is the governing statute in New Jersey for stalking. It states in pertinent part:
A person is guilty of stalking. . . .if he purposely or knowingly engages 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.
Now the phrase “course of conduct” is rather vague and can encompasses a wide array of potential conduct. However, that is not a bad thing, it gives an experienced criminal defense attorney angle to attack the case from. Another key angle to look to exploit is the “would cause a reasonable person” aspect of the statute. That phrase indicates that the standard of proof is based on a objective and not a subjective standard. In other words, it is what would cause a “reasonable person” and not the specific “victim”.
What are the Elements of a Stalking Charge in NJ
In order to be convicted of stalking in the fourth degree, the prosecution will need to prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt, they are:
- That the Defendant purposely and/or knowingly engaged in a course of conduct directed at a specific person,
- That the Defendant’s course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to:
- Fear for their safety; or
- Fear for the safety of a third person; or
- Suffer emotional distress
A Defendant will be convicted of stalking in the third degree if the State can prove one of the following additional elements:
- Violated an existing court order prohibiting that type of behavior (Ie. Restraining Order or No Contact Order); or
- This was the second or subsequent time the Defendant stalked the same victim; or
- The Defendant was serving a term of imprisonment or was on parole or probation as the result of a conviction for any felony offense (regardless of the offense)
In essence, the additional elements revolves around a situation in which the Defendant was put on notice that he should not be contacting and/or communicating with the victim.
Some of the most common course of conduct examples include the repeated:
- Maintaining a visual or physical proximity to the victim; or
- Harassing the victim; or
- Threatening the victim.
It is important to note here that stalking can be prosecuted if it is done through a third party at the direction of the Defendant. Furthermore, the courts have concluded that using electronic means to observe a person’s movements will still be considered stalking.
What is the Bail for a Stalking Charge in Somerset County NJ?
As of 2017, the bail system has forever changed in New Jersey. We have completely shifted away from the monetary bail system and are now more geared to a risk assessment system. Traditionally that has lead to more Defendants who have been charged with stalking being released either ROR or on certain pretrial conditions. However, if the stalking is considered an “act of domestic violence”, a Defendant will most likely end up spending 48 hours in the Somerset County Jail until pretrial services can complete their review of the case. If the prosecution is seeking to detain a Defendant in the Somerset County Jail without bail, pending trial, a Detention Hearing must take place. If you would like to speak to one of the attorneys at Keith Oliver Criminal Law about your options then please contact us at (908) 533-1064.
What is the Sentence for a Stalking Charge in NJ? Jail Time?
Stalking is either a third or fourth degree felony offense in New Jersey. Here is a breakdown of the potential penalties one faces if convicted of stalking in New Jersey.
- If a Defendant is convicted of stalking in the third degree in New Jersey they will be facing up to five years in prison, a fine up to $15,000 and a felony criminal record.
- Conversely, if a Defendant is convicted of stalking in the fourth degree in New Jersey they will be facing up to eighteen months in prison, a $10,000 fine and a felony criminal record.
Depending on the facts surrounding the charges, a Defendant may be eligible for the Pretrial Intervention Program. This is a diversionary program in New Jersey whereby a Defendant will be placed on a probationary period and if they complete the terms, the underlying charges will be outright dismissed. For more information on this program, please contact our office at (908)533-1064.
Speak to a Stalking Defense Lawyer in Hunterdon County NJ Today
Whether you have been charged with stalking, harassment, false imprisonment, burglary, criminal trespassing, disorderly conduct, terroristic threats or served a temporary restraining order, the attorneys at Keith Oliver Criminal Law can help. Our office has been defending clients accused of serious criminal offenses like stalking, in towns throughout Somerset County for years now. We serve all of Somerset County, including towns like Somerville, Readington, Clinton, Branchburg, Bridgewater, Hillsborough, North Plainfield an Manville. If you would like to schedule a free initial consultation today with one of our Somerset County criminal defense attorneys then please contact us at (908) 533-1064.