TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Barbara Buono which would clarify the type of conduct which constitutes stalking under New Jersey’s statutes, to provide better protection for victims of stalking, was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 37-0.
“To many, stalking represents the ultimate victimization of those who are affected, because it leaves victims with a constant and pervasive fear of attack from their victimizers,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “This bill identifies the shortcomings in our current stalking law in New Jersey, and provides for enhanced protections for those who find themselves the targets of stalkers. We need to pass this bill quickly, and give the victims of stalking a greater measure of protection from those who would do them harm.”
The bill, S-1106, would amend the State’s statutes governing stalking to read that a person is guilty of stalking if he or she purposefully or knowingly engages 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 a third person. Currently, the law provides that a person is guilty of stalking only if his or her course of conduct causes a reasonable person to fear bodily injury to, or death, of themselves or one of their immediate family members.
The bill also provides that a person is guilty of stalking if he or she engages in a course of conduct which would cause a reasonable victim to experience emotional distress or significant mental suffering. And finally, the bill amends the definition of “course of conduct” to include any action, method or device used to monitor, harass or threaten an individual. Senator Buono noted that this amendment is needed to address technological advances in stalking, including the increased use of the Internet in victimizing and harassing the targets of stalkers.
“One of the most lasting effects of stalking is the emotional distress that victims carry with them – in some cases, for the rest of their lives,” said Senator Buono. “Through this bill, we would have the statutory authority to step in before tragedy strikes for the victims of stalking. This bill also recognizes that stalkers will use the latest advances in technology to attack and harass their victims, and makes provisions for prosecutors to go after stalkers, whenever, wherever, and however they choose to victimize their targets.”
The bill now heads to Assembly for consideration of amendments made on the Senate floor. If approved there, it would go to the Governor’s Office to be signed into law.