Domestic Violence Law may Include Cyber-Harassment Charges as Grounds for a Restraining Order
On February 8, 2016, the New Jersey State Legislature proposed a bill that would add a new predicate act of domestic violence, cyber-harassment, that courts could consider when deciding whether to enter a final restraining order against a defendant accused of domestic violence. Currently, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (“PDVA”) outlines the situations in which the New Jersey Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part can enter a Final Restraining Order (“FRO”). See N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 et seq. Generally, before a court can enter an FRO, the judge must find a predicate act of domestic violence, as defined in the PDVA, and an immediate danger or need to protect the victim. This pending bill, S1257, would add cyber-harassment to the list of predicate acts of domestic violence. To read the full text of the bill, click here.
Currently, there are 18 enumerated predicate acts of domestic violence outlined in the PDVA. Those predicate acts of domestic violence are: homicide, assault, terroristic threats, kidnapping, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass, harassment, stalking, criminal coercion, robbery, contempt of a domestic violence order, and any other crime involving risk of death or serious bodily injury.
The proposed 19th predicate act of domestic violence would be cyber-harassment, as defined by New Jersey Criminal Code 2C:33-4.1. According to the NJ Criminal Code, a person is guilty of cyber-harassment if while making a communication in an online capacity via any electronic device or through a social networking site and with the purpose to harass another, the person does one of the following:
- Threatens to inflict injury or physical harm to any person or the property of any person.
- Knowingly sends, posts, comments, requests, suggests, or proposes any lewd, indecent, or obscene material to or about a person with the intent to emotionally harm a reasonable person or place a reasonable person in fear of physical or emotional harm to his person.
- Threatens to commit any crime against the person or the person’s property.
Although the definition of cyber-harassment is found in the criminal code, the alleged perpetrator of domestic violence would not need to be found guilty of the crime of cyber-harassment beyond a reasonable doubt in order for a court to enter a FRO against the defendant. That is because in restraining order cases, the burden of proof is only a “preponderance of the evidence.” In other words, for a restraining order to be finalized on the grounds of cyber-harassment, a court would only need to find, more likely than not, that the defendant perpetrated cyber-harassment. Click here to learn more about the burden of proof in restraining order cases.
Attorney Needed for Cyber Harassment Restraining Order Case
If you are dealing with a domestic violence case involving cyber harassment, contact skilled NJ cyber harassment lawyers defending clients in Bergen County, Essex County, Morris County, Passaic County, Warren County, and throughout New Jersey.