Cyber Harassment Charges in NJ 2C:33-4.1
Have you been charged with cyber harassment against another or a companion charge such as terroristic threats in New Jersey? A few years ago many people including most attorneys had never heard of cyber harassment, however, charges for cyber harassment under 2C:33-4.1 have been becoming more and more widespread as more people continue to use email and social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. In fact, it is a perfect example of how the New Jersey lawmakers are attempting to keep up with the ever-evolving online community and all-out feuds that seem to be taking place more and more online. For instance, nowadays when someone has a problem with another person or business they seem more and more likely to confront them online and air their dirty laundry or “put on blast” instead of doing it face to face which in the past would have normally only led to potential harassment charges. This is why many criminal defense attorneys feel it is unjust that a defendant can be charged with a felony for doing the same conduct that would normally be considered a petty disorderly persons offense in the past. For this reason, our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers often try to have the prosecutor’s office review and remand these cases as the lesser charge of harassment to be litigated down below in municipal court.
What is Cyber Harassment?
Under New Jersey law, cyber harassment is a crime serious crime that can lead to emotional harm, including anxiety and fear, and in some cases even cause thoughts of suicide in the victim. You can be charged with cyber harassment if you use any kind of electronic device or social media or social networking site to harass someone else and you threaten to physically harm them or their property; you knowingly send, post, request, or suggest any lewd, indecent, or obscene material about a person in order to emotionally harm them or make them fearful of physical or emotional harm; or you threaten to commit any crime against the person or their property. One increasingly common form of cyber harassment is “revenge porn” or an individual posting or sharing very private images of another person without their consent.
Cyber harassment can be charged as a fourth degree or third degree offense. It is generally a fourth degree offense to cyber harass a person and, if convicted, you may face up to 18 months in prison and be ordered to pay up to $10,000 in fines. If, at the time of the offense, you were 21 years of age or older, but pretending to be a minor and you cyber harassed a minor, you can be charged with third degree cyber harassment. This offense carries the potential of 3 to 5 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
Cyber Harassment 2C:33-4.1 vs. Harassment 2C:33-4
The criminal charge of cyber harassment shares many of the same factors of regular harassment under 2C:33-4 however what creates such a disparity between the two is that harassment is a petty disorderly persons offense which would be handled in municipal court and only carries a maximum of 30 days in county jail, while cyber harassment is normally a fourth degree indictable crime that would be handled in superior court and carries a maximum of 18 months in state prison. In some circumstances, cyber harassment can actually be upgraded to a third degree felony carrying a maximum of 5 years in state prison if the defendant was over 21 years old at the time of incident but pretended to be minor in order to harass a victim who was a minor. It is rare to see a situation where crimes are so similar but carry such drastic penalties.
Charged with Cyber Harassment, What Happens Next?
After being arrested for cyber harassment, you will likely be released from custody pending trial, unless a judge determines that you are too much of a flight risk, a danger to the safety of another person, or at risk of obstructing justice. Both fourth and third degree cyber harassment offenses are indictable crimes and your case will be heard in the superior court of the county where you were charged. The prosecutor is only required to show that your actions fit within one of the broad descriptions above in order to pursue a case against you. Moreover, if the State finds that there are certain aggravating factors present in your case, they can upgrade the charges against you, which can lead to significantly more severe penalties if you are ultimately convicted. Although the term sounds relatively minor, the consequences of being charged with a cyber harassment crime in New Jersey can permanently alter your life. For additional information and to speak with an experienced defense lawyer about your case, call our local Jersey City office at (201) 793-8018 or send us a message online. Consultations are entirely free and confidential.