The Crime of Harassment (NJSA 2C:33-4)
While harassment is not technically a “crime” in New Jersey, it is nevertheless classified as a criminal offense and codified under Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes. Harassment is a very common criminal offense covering a broad range of conduct. A complaint for harassment may either originate as an initial charge, or sometimes as a downgraded charge from a more serious allegation. That statute, NJSA 2C:33-4, defines the crime of harassment as follows:
Except as provided in subsection e., a person commits a petty disorderly persons offense if, with purpose to harass another, he:
a. Makes, or causes to be made, a communication or communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm;
b. Subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so; or
c. Engages in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other person.
A communication under subsection a. may be deemed to have been made either at the place where it originated or at the place where it was received. d.(Deleted by amendment, P.L.2001, c.443). e. A person commits a crime of the fourth degree if, in committing an offense under this section, he was serving a term of imprisonment or was on parole or probation as the result of a conviction of any indictable offense under the laws of this State, any other state or the United States.
L.1978, c.95; amended 1983, c.334; 1990, c.87, s.2; 1995, c.211, s.2; 1998, c.17, s.4; 2001, c.443, s.3.
There are a number of potential immigration consequences that potentially flow from a conviction of harassment. If you are not a United States Citizen, a judge may even advise you to consult with an immigration attorney to assess the immigration ramifications of a guilty plea. Our office has handled these types of situations for over sixteen years and can work with your criminal defense attorney to evaluate the effects of a guilty plea on your status. Among the areas we will explore are issues of:
· Assessment of good moral character
· Eligibility for certain forms of relief
Many people fail to realize, often to their detriment, that there are consequences that extend far beyond whether an individual is deportable. Even in cases where a conviction in and of itself may not render a person technically deportable, certain convictions may affect an individual’s eligibility for naturalization or whether the government decides to exercise some form of prosecutorial discretion. Harassment is a deceptively simple offense that should not be overlooked in terms of how it might affect one’s immigration status. It is often dismissed by laypeople and even attorneys as a relatively innocuous offense because it is often disposed of in municipal court and does not carry severe penalties compared to other offenses. This is not to mention that it is also potentially a fourth degree offense, which is punishable by up to 18 months in prison. Sometimes, the charge is not even disposed of in municipal court but in Family Court in connection with a Restraining Order. In such a case, the charge might form the underlying basis of an allegation of a restraining order violation, which is a separate ground of deportability. There is, unfortunately, a wide gap of understanding between our criminal justice system and our immigration system, and defendants should not plead guilty to this charge without a clear understanding of its ramifications.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the “Subscribe To This Blog’s Feed” button on the right. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship nor should it be relied upon as legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the “Case Evaluation” box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.