Harassment, as a criminal offense, generally entails intentionally acting toward someone else in a manner that is meant to alarm, annoy, torment or terrorize them. In all cases, the criminal court distinguishes between behavior that merely constitutes a “petty” annoyance and behavior that causes a credible threat to the person and/or his family. In New Jersey a person can be found guilty of harassment if he or she makes anonymous communications at extremely inconvenient hours or uses offensively course language in telephone, email or other forms of electronic communication. Similarly, a person can be found guilty of harassment if he (or she) engages in or threatens to engage in offensive touching such as striking, kicking, shoving and the like. Any repetitive conduct directed toward another person with the intent to annoy, intimidate, threaten or otherwise harm them is punishable under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4.

Although most charges of harassment are handled in the municipal court system as disorderly persons offenses and subject to a maximum fine of $1000 and up to 180 days in the county jail, the following exceptions apply:
– If the actor is on probation or parole for an indictable offense, the act of harassment becomes a crime of the fourth degree and a violation of probation or parole
– If the actor is serving a prison sentence when the act of harassment occurs, he will be charged with a crime of the fourth degree
– In each of the above instances, the maximum penalty is a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 18 months incarceration.

While it is true that most charges of harassment are filed by a person with whom you may have had a petty dispute or argument, the fact remains that the charge is a criminal charge and should be handled by an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Office of Gwendolyn O. Austin at your earliest convenience, at 973-736-2706 or on line for a free, confidential consultation. Together we will review the facts and circumstances of your particular case, explore the defenses you may have and work toward a positive outcome.

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