Where do Harassment Charges come from?
Harassment charges seem to always arise from a “relationship gone bad”.
It’s common to see people in toxic relationships bring their personal vendettas to court.
While many crimes like assault, resisting arrest, obstruction, and eluding involve interfering with law enforcement, harassment charges stem from toxic relationships.
It’s either your neighbor from hell or an ex-boyfriend who can’t move on.
As criminal defense lawyers, every client asks us about dismissing harassment charges.
Our mission is always the same: if it’s possible, let’s get this nonsense dismissed.
Step 1 - Start with the complaint
Dismissing harassment charges starts with reviewing your complaint.
Here’s a Sample Harassment Complaint from New Jersey.
(Important sections are highlighted)
Criminal complaints in New Jersey provide a lot of information.
For example, they identify the date that you allegedly committed harassment, the jurisdiction (location), names of witnesses, and of course the name of the alleged victim. (We redacted names in our sample)
In most criminal complaints, you will also find some information regarding the acts you committed for which you are being charged.
Step 2 - identify which section applies to you
In New Jersey, there are three subsections to the 2C:33-4 Harassment charge.
- 1. Annoying Communications
- 2. Offensive Touching
- 3. Intent to Cause Alarm
In our sample complaint, we’ve highlighted the section of the law in Green.
In this case, our client was charged with 2C:33-4 Subsection C. “Cause to Alarm” the victim.
Step 3 - be clear about your role.
Did you intend to "harass"?
After identifying the section of the law that applies to you, the third step in dismissing harassment charges involves asking yourself questions.
Be clear on what you may have done to give rise to your harassment charge.
Some examples are:
1. Sending text messages at inconvenient hours i.e., 2 a.m.
2. Pointing your finger in someone’s face in a menacing way
3. Making anonymous & threatening calls
4. Repeatedly ringing someone’s doorbell and running away
Once you sit down with your criminal defense lawyer, tell him the truth.
Everything you discuss with your lawyer is privileged & confidential.
You should feel safe in knowing that your side of the story will not be shared with anyone.
For example, if you’ve been charged with harassment for violating a Restraining Order, your lawyer should know this.
Now let’s turn to four strategies for dismissing your harassment charges.
Don't Feel Like Reading?
We created a helpful video that simply & clearly explains different strategies & approaches for dismissing harassment charges.
4 Legal Ways For Dismissing Harassment Charges
1 - Insufficient or New Evidence
Remember, your arrest is the starting point of your criminal case.
Harassment cases can take weeks and sometimes months.
A lot happens while your case is pending. The prosecution can dismiss your criminal charges after your criminal lawyer provides new evidence.
As your lawyers, we conduct our own investigation of your case.
For example, once we obtain evidence that shows it was impossible for you to text the victim at 3 a.m., we hand that over to the prosecutor.
We find the evidence which proves your innocence & we show it to the prosecutor.
As a result, they decide that the evidence against you is weak.
It’s important to emphasize the role of your criminal lawyer here.
2 - Request a Prosecutor Conference
A conference with the prosecutor is slightly different than plea bargaining.
Contrary to Hollywood movies, criminal lawyers & prosecutors have good, healthy, professional relationships.
We both chose the area of criminal law and we care about justice.
It is during these Pretrial Conferences that we get to openly discuss your case.
Think of it as you would a movie trailer.
It’s the preview of what’s to come. We know that it’s going to be an action movie but we want to see some clips before we watch it.
A member of our defense team will schedule some time with the prosecutor to review evidence, share perspectives, and discuss the pertinent law.
Quite often we’re able to persuade the prosecutor that he doesn’t have a case.
As a result, it gets dismissed!
3 - Dismissming Harassment Charges Through Mediation
It may not be the most appealing choice, but mediation is a great strategy for dismissing harassment charges.
Mediation is a court-ordered program that involves bringing both parties to the table.
Let’s say that your neighbor filed harassment charges over an ongoing fence dispute.
One thing leads to another and the next thing you know he marches down to the police station and files a harassment complaint.
Of course, you didn’t do anything criminal so your matter doesn’t belong in criminal court.
Your defense attorney and the prosecutor will join together and ask the court to send the matter to mediation.
During mediation, another lawyer (mediator) will guide the conversation towards a peaceful resolution.
At the end of the whole process, the mediator may push towards dismissing harassment charges.
Hey, it’s worth a shot, right?
4 - Pay A Fine
If the evidence against you is weak, but the prosecutor won’t dismiss your case, then your lawyer can fight for a reduced charge.
It may not be the result you wanted, but it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Your case is resolved and your nightmare is over.
A harassment charge can be downgraded to a local ordinance charge.
If this happens, jail is off the table.
You pay a fine & you’ll be relieved that the case is over.
Of course, our mission is dismissing your harassment charges, but a reduced charge can also be a home run!
A Harassment charge in NJ is a Petty Disorderly Persons offense. Maximum penalties include up to 30 days in jail & up to $500-fine.
If your facing harassment charges, keep calm, it’s a very common charge.
As discussed, there are many ways to approach dismissing harassment charges.
But, it is important to find a lawyer who is right for you.
Since it’s such an important decision, take the time to do some basic research.
Once you’ve found a few lawyers you’d like to meet, check to see if they have any client reviews.
At our firm, before a client hires us, we always encourage them to visit our Client Reviews.