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Source: NJ Department of Community Affairs, Division on Women

Stalking is a crime that is plaguing our society.  Anyone can be stalked - adult or child, male or female, married or single, rich or poor.  Victims and their families virtually become prisoners of fear.  As part of a continuing response to the prevention of violence in New Jersey, stalking legally became a crime in New Jersey on January 5, 1993.  This information is designed to help victims, law enforcement personnel, and the general public gain a better understanding of the law, and what can be done if they or someone they know is being stalked.

Stalking - The law in New Jersey

A person is guilty of stalking in New Jersey if he or she purposely and repeatedly follows another person, and engages in a course of conduct or makes a credible threat with the intent of annoying or placing that person in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury.

A person may be charged with stalking if that person:

  • purposely and repeatedly follows the victim, and engages in conduct which alarms or annoys the victim, such as:

  • sending anonymous letters or other mailings, or

  • making persistent phone calls with or without messages, or

  • sending unwanted gifts, or

  • threatens the victim's safety, and

  • the act is done to annoy or place the victim in reasonable fear of at least bodily injury.

The stalker may be someone you know (a friend, co-worker, acquaintance), someone you once had a relationship with, or a complete stranger.  Stalking does not have to be sexual in nature.  Stalkers direct their attention at a specific person, or at that person's family or friends.

The law refers to "course of conduct" and "credible threat" as follows:

  • Course of conduct: means a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person, composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose which alarms or annoys that person and which serves no legitimate purpose.  The course of conduct must be such as to cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.

  • Credible threat: means an explicit or implicit threat made with the intent and the apparent ability to carry out the threat, so as to cause the person who is the target of the threat to reasonably fear for that person's safety.

If found guilty of stalking:

  1. A first time offender can be sentenced to a term of up to 18 months in prison and/or a fine up to $7,500.

  2. A person committing any violation of an existing court order prohibiting stalking can be sentenced to a term between 3 and 5 years in prison and/or up to a $7,500 fine.

  3. A second time offender (or subsequent offender) can be sentenced to a term between 3 and 5 years in prison and/or up to a $7,500 fine.

What To Do If You Believe You Are Being Stalked

If you believe that you are being stalked, get help immediately, even if only one incident has occurred.

  • Call the police department: a. where you live, or b. where you work, or c. where the incident occurred.

  • File a police report.  Get the officer's name and badge number, and contact the same officer or detective for any subsequent incidents so he or she is familiar with the case.

  • Keep a notation of filed criminal complaints, indicating the municipality, the investigating officer, the date, and the incident report number.

  • In filing a police report, request information regarding a possible restraining order if you know the identity of the stalker.  In certain cases, a victim of stalking may be able to obtain a court order prohibiting this criminal act.

  • Contact a counseling center for help and support.

  • Contact the Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy in your county, who will keep you informed of all ongoing procedures.

  • Keep a journal of everything that occurs, with dates, places, and times of events.  This will be useful in the prosecution of the stalker.

  • Use rubber gloves or put plastic bags on your hands to collect evidence for the police department if they are unable to send an officer at that moment.  This will prevent smudging the stalker's fingerprints.  Put the evidence in a plastic bag or a paper bag, whichever the police department prefers.

  • Record the license plate numbers of any suspicious vehicles, plus a description of the vehicles.

  • Record descriptions of suspicious people.

  • Tell your employer about your situation so he or she can tell security to be on the alert, and so your employer will be prepared in case you need to take time off from work to attend to legal matters after the stalker is apprehended.

  • Be persistent in following up on your case; ask questions.

  • Work with the police and the Prosecutor's Office.  Listen to the advice they offer.  They are working to protect you and your family.

  • Remember: You Are The Innocent Party.

What To Do When You Are Receiving Annoying or Threatening Phone Calls

If you are receiving annoying or threatening phone calls:

  1. Keep a record of the time and date you received the call, and what message you received.

  2. Put a trace on the phone call as soon as the caller hangs up.  From a touch-tone phone dial *57; from a rotary or pulse-dialing phone, dial 1157.  This will record the phone number of the last call originated.  An operator will give you a recorded message of what to do after you hear a beep.  The phone company will keep this record and release it only to the police or the prosecutor.  Inform other members of the household to trace and record.  Be aware that a $1.00 charge for each trace will appear on your phone bill.

  3. Contact the police officer assigned to your case and tell him or her the date and time of the traced phone calls, plus what the caller said or did.  File a police report the following day.

Precautionary Measures and Safety Tips If You Are Being Stalked

  • Stay alert and aware at all times.

  • Familiarize yourself with your surroundings so you will be aware of any changes or suspicious occurrences.

  • Always walk or travel with someone, especially at night.

  • Have your keys ready when approaching your car or home.

  • Know where the local police department is located.

  • Memorize the police department phone number.

  • Change your daily routine; take different routes.

  • Vary your time schedule.

  • Wear comfortable shoes when traveling.

  • Lock all doors and windows in your residence, all of the time.

  • Use timers in your residence to turn lights on and off at varying times and locations.

Helpful Numbers To Keep On Hand

Domestic Violence Hotline
(confidential, bilingual, TDD-accessible)
Women's Referral Central 800-322-8092
NJ Violent Crimes Compensation Board Victim-Witness Hotline 800-242-0804
NJ Coalition Against Sexual Assault 609-631-4450
State Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy 609-984-3880
Division on Civil Rights 609-292-4605
Department of Health, Rape Care Program 609-984-6137
NJ Coalition for Battered Women 609-584-8107
Division on Women, Office on the Prevention of Violence Against Women 609-292-8840

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