New Jersey has numerous laws in place aimed at protecting victims of threats, violence, and intimidation from relatives, former romantic or sexual partners, or co-parents. Unfortunately, state law often fails to protect individuals who find themselves targeted by people they barely know, or don't know at all.
The U.S. Department of Justice defines stalking as "engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress." This includes transmitting threatening messages via the internet. With so many people spending much of their free time online, cyberstalking–internet harassment–has become increasingly prevalent. In today's anger-filled social media environment, journalists and experts who write about public issues and scientific matters may find themselves receiving online verbal abuse and even death threats from strangers who disagree with them. Unfortunately, at present there is no New Jersey statute enabling such victims to request protective orders.
In other cases, a mentally ill person will focus on a stranger, become obsessed with them, and target them through repeated stalking, continual texts or phone calls, and other types of unwanted attention.
One young New Jersey woman has been dealing with such a situation for several years. A former neighbor whom she barely knew became obsessed with her and began relentlessly contacting her via text messages, middle-of-the-night phone calls, and other forms of harassment. He even went so far as to show up at her parents' house. She blocked the man's phone number and tried to cut off other means of contacting her, but was not able to completely get him out of her life.
Eventually she collected all his messages and voicemails and brought them to her local police department, requesting a restraining order. Law-enforcement officers told her that because she did not fall into one of the legal categories of people who qualify for restraining orders, they could not help her.
NJ State Senators Are Trying to Eliminate the Stranger Loophole
In the summer of 2022, the young woman's plight came to the attention of the New Jersey State legislature. Three State Senators decided to try and change the law so that people facing similar threats could receive legal protection. In July 2022, State Senators Jon Bramnick, Linda Greenstein, and Vin Gopal introduced a bill that would eliminate the stranger loophole. At the end of 2022, it was still sitting in committee, and no action had yet been taken to bring it to a vote.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many New Jersey residents who were being stalked obtain restraining orders to protect themselves against individuals who have harmed them or threatened to harm them. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.