TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Barbara Buono which clarifies the type of conduct which constitutes stalking under New Jersey’s statutes, to provide better protection for victims of stalking, was signed into law by Governor Corzine over the weekend.
“The victims of stalking often suffer long after their stalker has been apprehended, living in a state of fear, anxiety and emotional distress as a result of their being targeted,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “This new law provides for enhanced protections for those victims, while updating the provisions of the law that apply to stalking in the digital age to better reflect the realities of the crime. While we can’t give the victims back the lost sense of security stolen from them, we can make sure that they are protected from further victimization, and that stalkers face penalties which match the severity of the crime.”
The new law, S-1106, amends 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. Previously, the law provided that a person was guilty of stalking only if his or her course of conduct caused a reasonable person to fear bodily injury to, or death, of themselves or one of their immediate family members.
Senator Buono’s 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.
“Under the previous stalking laws, police could not step in to protect a stalking victim or their family members until they were in eminent danger of physical harm,” said Senator Buono. “With this new law, police will now have the authority to get involved before harassment and pervasive surveillance turn to physical violence, assault or worse. Also, as the technology advances, we must evolve with the times, and this law brings our State’s stalking statutes into the 21st Century.”
The bill was approved unanimously by the Senate in December, and received final legislative approval by the Assembly last month.