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The law on harassment in New Jersey is not clear. N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 provides that a person commits a petty disorderly persons offense if with purpose to harass another person, he or she “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.”

The problem in defining harassment is that there is a tension between First Amendment rights and harassment. The law was intended to protect people from a repeated course of conduct intended to harass such as calling someone repeatedly, confronting them repeatedly, texting or emailing them repeatedly.

The law is not intended to cover situations where people get in arguments and curse each other out. Unfortunately, people are now using claims of harassment to either manipulate a situation as is common in the divorce context where the spouses often accuse each other of harassment or between neighbors who have some ongoing dispute concerning noise, a pet or some other problem which is not a criminal offense.

When facing a harassment charge brought by either a private complainant or the police, you should hire an aggressive attorney who can do the research to show the Court that whatever it is you are accused of doing does not rise to the level of harassment. A conviction of harassment will appear on your record and could be a red flag for a potential employer who does a criminal background check in the application process.