Harassment is an offense which frequently is cited in support of requests for temporary and final restraining orders. When prosecuted in municipal court as a “stand alone” offense, harassment is a petty disorderly persons offense punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, a $75 Safe Neighborhood’s penalty and a $50 violent crimes penalty. The Court also has the option of imposing a period of probation as part of a sentence arising from a conviction of harassment.
The offense of harassment may result from either conduct or speech. For example, making a communication at an extremely inconvenient manner in a way likely to cause annoyance or alarm will result in the issuance of a complaint for harassment. Touching someone in an offensive manner may also result in the issuance of a harassment complaint. In either case, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant engaged in his or her actions with a purpose to harass.
When harassment forms the underlying basis for a domestic violence complaint, however, the process for hearing the complaint changes dramatically. First and foremost, requests for restraining orders are heard in Superior Court and not in Municipal Court. The proceedings are civil in nature and not quasi-criminal as they are in Municipal Court. The Plaintiff, that is the person bringing the complaint, must prove to a Superior Court Judge by a preponderance of evidence that he or she has been the victim of harassment and requires the protection of a final retraining order. Of course, there are multiple offenses upon which a final restraining order could be issued but harassment is among the most common bases for a restraining order request.
The issuance of a Final Restraining Order carries serious consequences. At the very least, the defendant is barred from having any communications with the plaintiff except in limited circumstances where the parties have children in common. The defendant will have to pay a penalty of between 50 and 500 dollars. The defendant may be ordered to attend batterer’s counseling. Where the parties are parents of children, the Court can make temporary decisions about custody, visitation and support. A violation of a restraining order will result in the filing of criminal charges and the defendant’s arrest.
At the Law Offices of Agre & St. John, our team of South Jersey criminal defense lawyers have represented both the victims of domestic violence and clients accused of acts of domestic violence which they did not commit. Either way, we look forward to serving your interests should the need for our services arise. Contact us online or call 856-428-7797 to schedule a consultation today.