In regards to a stalking law that has been changed and changed again, the New Jersey Supreme Court took further actions to clarify what exactly must be present for a stalking charge to “stick”. They ruled the intentions of the defendant are inconsequential and that defendant doesn’t have to know or intend their actions to cause fear in order to be convicted of stalking.
Stalking laws across the country are relatively new as it is a fairly modern crime. Amendments are normal in new criminal laws as the system seeks to close loop holes and ensure they are written correctly. These changes often come about through legislative changes but also through appeals processes.
As it was originally written the law required proof that the defendant actually intended to cause fright, alarm, or annoyance with the stalking activity. In 1996 this requirement of intent was narrowed before being completely removed in 1999. The case which appeared before the N.J. Supreme Court last month affirmed the most recent change, stating that the defendant does not have to intend the resulted fear or annoyance.
This is important because intention or the motivation behind an act is often what separates criminal and non criminal situations. However, according to the ruling that intention isn’t required for a stalking conviction.
Generally, unless a restraining order is in place or this is a second offense, stalking is a 4th degree offense. This carries a penalty of 18 months in prison. If, however, it is in violation of a restraining order or it isn’t the first conviction, the offense has a potential to carry up to 5 years behind bars.
There are numerous approaches that your attorney can take to defend you against stalking charges. If you are facing charges like these or charges of harassment, contact me today. I can give you some free legal advice and we can discuss your case.