Governor Murphy recently signed a law that expands the ability of victims of stalking and cyber harassment to obtain restraining orders in New Jersey. Under existing law, restraining orders could only be obtained if a victim and perpetrator shared a close relationship, either as members of the same household, spouses, or a couple in a dating or co-parenting relationship. Pursuant the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015, a restraining order could also be obtained for victims of sexual assault. However, until the passage of the new law, victims of stalking and cyber harassment by strangers had limited recourse. The newly enacted law, which comes into effect February 1, 2024, eliminates the prerequisite that a victim establish that they either had a domestic relationship with a perpetrator or was sexually assaulted by a perpetrator for the issuance of a restraining order. In signing the law, Governor Murphy remarked, “[f]ar too many individuals fall victim to different kinds of abuse and are unable to escape it because of their lack of ability to attain a protective order against their abusers. Today, we hope to give these victims some relief and assurance that we are with them and we support them.”
When the law takes effect, for victims of stalking and cyber harassment, a restraining order can be obtained based upon the allegation of such crimes by filing an application with the Superior Court. Under the new law, stalking is defined as “purposefully or knowingly engaging in a course of conduct directed at or toward a person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for the reasonable person’s own safety or the safety of a third person, or suffer other emotional distress, because the conduct involves: repeatedly maintaining a visual or physical proximity to a person; directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means, following, monitoring, observing, surveilling, threatening, or communicating to or about, a person, or interfering with a person’s property; repeatedly committing harassment against a person; or repeatedly conveying, or causing to be conveyed, verbal or written threats or threats conveyed by any other means of communication or threats implied by conduct or a combination threreof directed at or towards a person.”
Cyber harassment is defined as “conduct that occurs, while making one or more communications in an online capacity via any electronic device or through a social networking site and with the purpose to harass another, that involves threatening to inflict injury or physical harm to any person or the property of any person; knowingly sending, posting, commenting, requesting, suggesting, or proposing any lewd, indecent, or obscene material to or about a person with the intent to emotionally harm a reasonable person or place a reasonable person in fear of physical or emotional harm to the reasonable person; or threatening to commit any crime against a person or the person’s property.”
Meyerson, Fox & Conte, P.A.’s attorneys have significant experience in handling applications for temporary and final restraining orders under the existing domestic violence law. If you are a victim of stalking or cyber abuse and you have questions regarding how this new law may impact your ability to seek relief, contact our office for more information.