Stalking Acts of Domestic Violence in NJ
Stalking as a Predicate Act of Domestic Violence
Have you been charged with stalking or has a temporary restraining order been filed against you alleging stalking? You need a lawyer who has experience fighting domestic violence cases. Stalking is one of the potential predicate acts of domestic violence in New Jersey. Stalking is a serious felony criminal charge in New Jersey but it can also be a predicate act of domestic violence in a civil restraining order matter filed in the Family Division of the Superior Court. Stalking requires a course of alarming conduct such as following someone, threatening them, etc.
The restraining order defense lawyers at the Tormey Law Firm LLC have successfully handled restraining order cases in practically every county in New Jersey. In fact, Mr. Tormey has been recognized as a top trial lawyer under 40 years of ago by the National Trial Lawyers Association and by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. In addition, Mr. Tormey has been cited by numerous publications as a legal resource on domestic violence including appearing on CBS Radio concerning the Ray Rice aggravated assault domestic violence case in New Jersey. If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance regarding a restraining order matter in NJ, you’ve come to the right place. Contact our offices anytime for immediate assistance at (908)-336-5008. The initial consultation is always provided free of charge. We represent clients throughout NJ including in Chatham, Randolph, Mendham, Parsippany, Jefferson Twp., and Washington Twp.
Here is a review from one of the many satisfied restraining order clients of the Tormey Law Firm:“The Best Attorney”5.0 starsPosted by anonymous“As most can attest, having to defend yourself in court is not always a pleasant experience and at best you’re hoping for a positive outcome. In the case of TRO defenses, positive outcomes can be put into three categories:
1) Good – Plaintiff dismisses TRO with conditions w/o trial
2) Better – Case dismissed after judge listens to both parties
3) Best – Case dismissed after Plaintiff’s testimony w/o Defense testimony
My personal experience was that Tom was able to get me the “BEST” possible outcome by having my case dismissed without Defense testimony. His knowledge of the law is impeccable and trust me on this one, being smart and knowing the law are two different things. Tom’s knowledge of the law is what ultimately got my case dismissed without me saying a word in court.”
Predicate Acts of Domestic Violence in NJ: Stalking
Stalking in New Jersey is a criminal charge governed under N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-10. As set forth by the statute, Stalking is a felony crime that may be charged if a person engages in a course of conduct in which he or she repeatedly maintains a visual or physical proximity to a person or repeatedly conveys verbal or written threats. As defined by the statute, “repeatedly” means on two or more occasions.
Stalking is defined as “purposeful conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury or death to himself or family member and knowingly, recklessly, or negligently places a person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or death to himself or family member.” In layperson’s terms, stalking is an action or series of acts committed purposefully to frighten or intimidate a person by threatening the injury or welfare of themselves or their family members. Stalking incites one’s fear for one’s safety or that of a third person. Causing significant emotional distress is part of this charge as well.
Persistent Pattern of Stalking for a Criminal Charge in NJ
Examples of stalking include damaging someone’s personal property, visually or physically being in the same location as the victim, threatening the victim through repeated phone calls, texts, email messages, or third parties, monitoring, following, or communicating to the victim directly or through others in a manner that causes them to be afraid.
When there is consistent engagement with the victim (called a course of conduct) using any method or device to express verbal, written, or other threats repeatedly, watching, surveilling, engaging in harassing behavior, or a combination of these actions, it is considered stalking. To be found guilty of stalking, the accused must have acted at least twice in a way that a “reasonable person” would feel threatened.
An illegal course of conduct is behavior directed at someone that would cause them to be afraid for their safety or that of a third party, or to endure consequential emotional distress. An illegal course of conduct can include several factors. Repeatedly (two or more times) watching or being near a person. Following someone around, hanging out at their place of employment, and driving past their house repeatedly and in an intimidating manner are examples of threatening conduct. Sending threats verbally, in writing, or any other means of communication, directly or indirectly, is also a course of conduct as is harassing someone or damaging their property.
Degrees and Penalties for Different Stalking Scenarios
The crime of stalking in the fourth degree is under a first-time offense and carries a penalty of a fine of up to $10,000 and a possible jail sentence of 18 months. If the crime is committed in violation of an existing court order forbidding stalking behavior, it is a third-degree offense with a prison sentence of 3 to 5 years and a fine of up to $15,000. Additionally, if the crime is committed while the defendant is in prison, on parole or probation, or if the stalking offense is second or subsequent, the charge of stalking in the third degree is applied.
Stalking as the Basis of a Permanent Restraining Order
A consequence of a stalking accusation is the potential for a permanent restraining order. According to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) of 1991, stalking is considered a criminal offense. It is possible to obtain a restraining order against someone who is stalking you, but only when it is someone close to you, such as a family member or spouse. After the defendant has been accused and a temporary protective order has been requested, a hearing is almost immediately conducted to place a permanent restraining order against the defendant. Restraining orders prohibit contact with the victim, the victim’s family, or other third parties associated with the victim in the case of using them as conduits for threats or messages. A restraining order can prevent the defendant from entering the residence, place of employment, or even public places where they may arrive separately and by chance. The defendant is prohibited from all contact with the victim, their family, and their peers through any means, including written, verbal, and electronic communications.
Proving Stalking in a Restraining Order Trial
NOTE: It is important to remember that, although stalking is a criminal charge and we use the criminal statute under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10, the plaintiff must only establish the civil standard of a “preponderance of evidence” in a restraining order case because a restraining order is civil in nature. A restraining order in family law matters requires a lower level of proof than criminal charges, which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Preponderance of evidence is a “more likely than not” standard so the plaintiff must establish 51% that the offense was committed and that is sufficient in a civil case.
Stalking Attorneys in New Jersey
The stress that accompanies family law proceedings and criminal law matters can seem overwhelming. You need a seasoned, experienced attorney who can work with you on both fronts. A domestic violence matter can be managed differently in family court than as a criminal matter. They have different evidentiary requirements which require different strategies and proof. It is also important to remember that stalking requires a course of conduct. Therefore, one incident of following or tracking a person is not sufficient to establish the predicate act of stalking. It may be sufficient for a single act to establish the predicate act of harassment, on the other hand, but stalking requires multiple incidents. Some elements of your family law case can help your criminal case and vice versa. Since our attorneys have experience in family and criminal law, a plan can be developed to impact both cases, streamlining the process proactively.
For more information, contact the Tormey Law Firm LLC for immediate assistance at (908)-336-5008.