In the last several years, many states have passed laws prohibiting cyber-harassment, cyber-stalking, and cyber-bullying to reflect the evolution of today’s society which, more and more, is becoming centered around electronic communications.
While New Jersey has been a strong advocate of anti-bullying and harassment laws, it has only recently passed a law which specifically criminalizes cyber-harassment. The law was considered to be, in large part, a reaction to the increase in the number of teens who have committed suicide after suffering online harassment. It passed both houses of the state legislature unanimously and was signed into law shortly thereafter by Governor Christie.
This law makes cyber-harassment a crime of the fourth degree, unless the harasser is 21 years old or older and the targeted person is a minor. In that case, it is considered a crime in the third degree. New Jersey’s Criminal Code provides that a third degree crime may result in 3 to 5 years of imprisonment if convicted and a fourth degree crime may result in up to 18 months of imprisonment. The law specifies that these crimes could also be penalized by either a $10,000 fine (for a fourth degree offense) or a $15,000 fine (for a third degree offense) either in addition to or instead of the jail time.