If you have been charged with harassment in Hoboken, you must take the charges seriously because you can go to jail for this petty disorderly persons offense, and you may even face a restraining order. The statute governing harassment N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, encompasses words and deeds that are not uncommonly committed against loved ones, friends, or even strangers. The conduct can be as harmless as yelling at someone, to something more alarming such as hitting or striking a person. Our local criminal defense attorneys are well-versed in the intricacies of defending harassment cases in Hoboken Municipal Court and Hudson County Family Court, when criminal charges are accompanied by restraining orders. We are here, waiting for your call, to provide answers and the personalized guidance you need to move forward with the best defense. Call (201) 793-8018 if you would like to speak with a member of our team free of charge.
Harassment Allegations Happen Often in Hoboken, New Jersey
Hoboken was once known for the gentrification that occurred in the 90’s. It now serves as an upscale neighborhood for working professionals looking for quality of life with all the benefits of an urban environment. Lying along the Hudson River, it is a great locale for those working in neighboring Manhattan or traveling to and from nearby cities such as Weehawken, Jersey City, or Union City. There are also countless visitors frequenting the city to enjoy such sites as Pier C, 1600 Park, and the many bars and restaurants. The local government is likely pleased with the economic strides made by the town, along with business owners and residents. For this reason, the government, police, prosecutors, as well as fellow residents wish to keep the urban renewal going and frown upon any criminal conduct that threatens individuals and the positive public perception of the town. Ultimately, this creates an environment in which accusations of harassment are taken seriously. If certain conduct is alleged, the police do not hesitate to file charges for harassment. They also assist alleged victims of domestic violence with the process for filing a restraining order.
What It Means to Be Charged With Harassment in Hoboken NJ
Per the language and description in section N.J.S.A. 2C: 33-4, harassment is conduct that negatively impacts another person. The complaining and offensive conduct can occur in three primary ways. Firstly, a person can be accused of harassment if he communicates with another person at off-hours or while using foul language or in any other way that is annoying or alarming to the other person. This form of communication can be made by the accused himself, by a third party at his direction, or anonymously.
Secondly, you can be said to have harassed someone if you hit, shoved, kicked, threatened, or touched someone in a manner offensive to him or her. This form of harassment is often alleged when no actual harm has occurred, but has instead been simply threatened. For example, if you say “I will hit you with this bottle” it may be considered harassment and it can also be alleged that you committed a crime known as terroristic threats. Something a little less dramatic, but still considered to be harassment, is set forth under the third section of the statute.
The third section of the harassment statute involves a repeated course of conduct occurring over time. To be charged under this section, it must be alleged that you repeatedly committed acts with the intention of alarming or annoying a person, or by committing other acts of alarming conduct. In other words, doing anything that you know would bother someone can be said to be harassment.
How the State Proves a Hoboken Harassment Charge
While almost any conduct may be alleged to be harassment by the listener, not all acts will permit a finding of guilt at a trial. To be found guilty, it must be determined that it was your intention to actually harass the other person. When arguing with someone, not everything is that cut and dry. In the heat of the moment, things are said that a person would not normally say and the intention to harass is not present. However, the lack of intent will not stop others from filing complaints against you, as they may have an agenda in doing so. Nevertheless, a harassment accusation must be supported, and it depends on the section of the statute that you allegedly violated. As noted, harassment comes in many forms. The third provision of the statute requires a repeated course of conduct with the purpose to harass, while the first section only requires a showing that you did communicate with someone in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm.
It should be noted that the law pertaining to harassment can be very vague. The allegations made in most circumstances are baseless but if phrased correctly in the complaint, the court will continue with the charge. Sometimes the case may need to be tried to determine if the allegations are truly harassment as defined under the law. Since the law is overly broad, undermining the evidence to support the harassing behavior or showing a lack of intent can be effective defense approaches.
Penalties You Face for Harassment in Hoboken
Depending on the context of harassment charges, potential penalties are manifold. If convicted, you can be sent to the county jail and even state prison under some circumstances. In most cases, harassment is a petty disorderly persons offense (pdp). If charged with this offense, your criminal case will be handled in Hoboken Municipal Court located at 100 Newark Street in Hoboken. At this level, you have the right to have a trial. The trial is presided over and decided by the municipal court judge. You will also have the opportunity to resolve the case by agreement with the prosecutor and alleged victim. Ultimately, you can be sentenced to pay a fine of $500 and go to jail for 30 days. In addition, the offense will be on your criminal record.
If you are on probation and commit an act of harassment, your charges will be elevated to an indictable crime, thereby exposing you to state prison. Specifically, if harassment is committed while you are on probation, parole, or while serving jail time, it will be a fourth degree crime. This often occurs in domestic violence situations, as the alleged victim knows just what to do to get you in trouble. For a felony crime, the case is brought to Hudson County Superior Court, Criminal Division. Under these circumstances, the Judge, upon a finding of guilt by a jury, can send you to state prison for up to 18 months and assess a fine of maximally $10,000. Likewise, you will head to Superior Court if the harassment is attached to a domestic violence temporary restraining order (TRO).
In the Family Court, this offense can then lead to other charges in the future. For example, you may be placed on probation by the Family Court, during the term of which any infraction will subject you to a violation of probation. Often, the victim in the original case will continue to try and exact punishment by complaining to police about your conduct, however slight it may be. These complaints can sometimes lead to violations of probation or new charges for contempt for violating the no contact provision.
When Harassment Is Used for a Restraining Order in Hoboken
This statute is often applied in the context of domestic violence cases where one party does not wish to be contacted by another. For example, repeated and unwanted texts or phone calls are communications that can be found to be annoying and unwanted. The content of these messages will be vital in proving harassment. Saying hello for example, is objectively not harassing in nature, but calling someone foul names or threatening to burn their house down if they do not respond would be alarming. Additionally, messages or posts via social media can also be alleged to be harassment. Similarly, some communications that are made during inconvenient hours or in an alarming manner can serve as the basis for a harassment complaint. For instance, calling someone at 2 a.m. and repeatedly screaming into the phone or leaving offensive or frightening voicemails may be harassment. Also, arguing with a loved and shoving the person away from you may be said to be harassment.
If the harassment is filed in conjunction with a restraining order in a domestic violence case, the restraining order matter will be heard in the Hudson County Superior Court, Family Division. The majority of people living in Hoboken are younger adults, some with and some without children. Many of these people are in relationships. If the person that is accused of harassment is someone with whom they have had a relationship, it can be considered an act of domestic violence. The danger of a harassment complaint being filed against you is that it may be used in domestic violence cases to gain an advantage. Sometimes, parties who are on the brink of divorce may intentionally allege harassment to gain favorable leverage in situations involving housing or custody and support.
The level of proof needed in domestic violence cases is substantially lower than in criminal trials. The complainant (alleged victim) need only show by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) that he or she was harassed by you. If it is proven that you did harass someone, you can be ordered to stay away from the person, their place of employment, their residence (even if shared) and in some cases, the children. You will also need to forfeit any weapons in your possession. Once a final restraining order is placed into effect, violating the restraining order, whether by harassment or another offense, can land you with additional criminal charges and even a jail sentence.
Facing Hoboken Harassment Charges? Protect Your Innocence
If you have been charged with harassment and/or have a domestic violence hearing involving this charge as the basis of a restraining order, protect yourself by calling our Hudson County law office. Our criminal defense team knows and understands that in most cases, the allegation of harassment fails to meet the legal definition of the crime. Motions to dismiss can be filed to protect you in these circumstances. Even in the absence of such a possibility, there are alternatives that we can pursue and other ways to combat the case against you. Contact (201) 793-8018 to discuss your Hoboken harassment case with an attorney dedicated to serving your needs. You can reach us anytime for a free consultation.