When You’re Really Not Sure What Constitutes Harassment

Posted November 30th, 2017 by .

Categories: Domestic Violence.

harassmentJust about everybody has some feeling on what constitutes harassment. After all, the term is often used outside the legal arena. You might consider your children pestering you for ice cream as a form of harassment. By the same token, a spouse might look upon his or her partner’s nagging as harassment in the purest sense. The bottom line is that you really need to understand when harassment becomes a matter of law.

For the record, New Jersey has two primary harassment laws. NJSA 2C:33-4 outlines the actions that would generally constitute harassment. In short, they include:

  • Communication of any kind at inconvenient hours or otherwise with the intent of causing annoyance or alarm. This may be done anonymously and can consist of coarse language.
  • Certain physical activities such as kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching may also constitute harassment. In fact, the mere threat of any of these actions may be viewed as harassment.
  • Any type of alarming conduct or acts done on a repeated basis with the purpose of annoyance may be considered harassment.

In the meantime, cyber-harassment is a separate crime and described in NJSA 2C:33-4.1. It deals with the concept that online resources present an opportunity to subject a victim to harassment. For example, someone could use social media as a means of harassment. This could also include using the internet to threaten physical harm or make lewd suggestions.

Harassment and Domestic Violence

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 includes harassment as a predicate act of domestic violence. Therefore, a final restraining order (FRO) can be executed if a judge feels that harassment puts a victim in jeopardy. You might be interested in a recent court case that dealt with this issue.

C.R. v. J.R., 2017 N.J. Super. was decided by the New Jersey Appellate Division earlier this month. It is an unpublished decision, and therefore, only applies to the parties involved in this particular case. Meanwhile, their names have been masked with initials for confidentiality reasons.

According to the facts presented in this matter, C.R. and J.R. were involved in a dating relationship for a number of years. Although they had stopped dating on numerous occasions, they were still a couple when C.R. found it necessary to apply for a temporary restraining order. Ironically, it was on the day that the two planned on taking steps to obtain a marriage license.

The application for a restraining order was based on both harassment and assault. According to C.R., J.R. called her at least fifty times and also left a similar amount of text messages. When she didn’t answer, J.R. showed up at her job. Ultimately, the confrontation became physical, and C.R.’s boss called the police.

Meanwhile, J.R.’s accounting of the story was different. There is no mention of the phone calls or text messages. Instead, J.R. admitted that he came to C.R.’s place of employment to speak with her. He also insisted that it was C.R. who made the confrontation physical.

When the trial judge considered the final restraining order, he acknowledged that there was conflicting testimony concerning the assault. Notwithstanding, the court determined that C.R. had established proof that J.R. was acting in a harassing manner. In fact, even after the entry of the temporary restraining order, J.R. continued to harass C.R. on social media. The FRO was entered, and J.R. appealed.

In the end, the Appellate Division agreed with the trial court. They felt there was no cause to second-guess the family court judge in determining whether there was a predicate act of domestic violence. Meanwhile, there was every reason to believe that C.R. needed the protection of the FRO as the two were neighbors.

Harassment is Not Just Related to Domestic Violence

Although harassment is often related to domestic violence, there are other times when you may need to file a complaint for harassment. However, there is also the chance that you could find yourself facing harassment charges. At the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone, we have extensive experience assisting those concerned with harassment. Call us to see how we can help.


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