With the emergence of social media forums like Facebook and twitter along with the advance of cell phones and text messaging, individuals have far greater ability to harass each other. This, combined with new priorities and mandates aimed at eliminating bullying in schools along with the common phenomenon of kids terrorizing each other has lead to increased prosecution of harassment charges. Juveniles are commonly cited with this offense. In the past,these matters were often handled at the school or parental level. However, county prosecutor offices have recently been accepting these delinquency complaints and scheduling them for court.
Defense Attorney for Juvenile Disorderly Persons Offenses
You will usually be notified by police if they are investigating, charging, or want to question your child. If your juvenile child has been charged with harassment anywhere in New Jersey, give my office a call to speak with an experienced juvenile defense attorney. I have defended juveniles against harassment and many other more serious violations.
Juvenile Court for Harassment Charges
Criminal violations in New Jersey are graded based on the seriousness of the charge as detailed by New Jersey’s Code of Criminal Conduct, known as chapter “2C”. Harassment usually falls within the lowest level of such offenses, categorized as petty disorderly persons offenses. A petty disorderly persons offense if cited to an adult would be heard in the local municipal court in the town in which it occurred. However, all juvenile charges must be referred to the Superior Court as Municipal Courts do not have jurisdiction over these matters.
This may seem like an unfortunate and inconvenient fact. However, it is actually for the juvenile’s protection. The Family Court setting in Superior Court is far better equipped to protect the juvenile’s privacy interest. Family Court judges also have greater training, education and experience dealing with the social and judicial issues that juvenile cases present. The only time a harassment charge rises to the felony level is where it is done while the juvenile is already on probation.
New Jersey Harassment Law
The first way a juvenile can be charged with harassment is by causing a “communication” to be made anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or by using bad or hateful language, or in any other way that has a likelihood of creating annoyance or alarm. The word “communication” is used very broadly here. A communication be via telephone, email, text message, instant chat, in verbal, or writing. The best example of an anonymous communication is a prank phone call. Calling a home late at night, especially repeatedly, for no legitimate reason could give rise to charges under the “extremely inconvenient hours” clause. The statute also makes reference to “offensively course language” which is open to interpretation but judge usually “know it when the see it.”
The second section of the harassment statute, NJSA 2C:33-4, prohibits hitting or touching another person in an offensive way or threatening to do the same. This statute closely overlaps New Jersey assault statute. This section is pretty straightforward and basically prohibits any unwanted physical contact. “Keep your hands to yourself” is good advice to a juvenile trying to avoid prosecution under this statute.
The third and final way to be exposed to liability under New Jersey’s harassment law is by engaging in any pattern of troubling conducted or doing something repeatedly with the intent to harass. A good example of this would be sending an unreasonable number of text messages or placing too many unwanted phone calls or emails to another person, especially where it is clear that the other person does not wish to be contacted. If your child is facing New Jersey Harassment Charges in juvenile court, give my office a call so we can answer your questions about the and process.