One of the more sketchy criminal offenses our NJ defense lawyers handle are harassment charges. The conduct prohibited by the harassment statute is rather abstract and these cases therefore tend to be very fact sensitive. There is also an element of subjectivity which frequently comes into play in the defense of NJ harassment cases. To better understand this dynamic, we need to review the NJ harassment law.
N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, titled “Harassment”, prohibits individuals from making communications anonymously, at extremely inconvenient hours or that are offensively course, and with the purpose to harass. The statute also criminalizes conduct committed for the purpose to harass which is alarming or seriously annoying. The first pedigree of NJ harassment involves communications including verbal, written, and electronic (e.g. telephone, computer, or other data transmission). Whether a communication constitutes harassment depends on the prior course of the parties, the setting of the utterance, and the gender, age and occupation of the person to whom the utterance was passed. A communication may be harassing depending on the sensitivity of one individual yet not be harassment to another. What is pivotal is that it was actually harassing to the individual and that the communicator intended the communication to be harassing. The second form of NJ harassment involves conduct as opposed to communication. In other words, what we are now speaking of is harassing behavior. To be actionable under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, the conduct must be alarming or seriously annoying. A minor disturbance does not constitute a violation insofar as the annoyance must be either “serious” or alarming.
One can see that the statute is quite broad, encompassing “communications”, without specifying exactly what “words” or “types” of communications are taboo. In the same instances, the law indicates that the subjective sensitivities of the victim has some relevance. These dynamics of the law make for some rather wide ranging and disparate decisions by our Courts. We find that it is therefore crucial that all of the important facts and arguments be made as cogently as possible otherwise an erroneous interpretation of the facts (i.e. a conviction) is of greater possibility. Our NJ Harassment Defense Attorneys are experienced in handling these cases and always take advantage of the opportunity to clarify the facts and case law such that a harassment conviction is avoided.