Strengthens Stalking Laws to Include Tracking Victim Through Cellular Phone
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Nia H. Gill to criminalize the use of so-called ‘stalking’ apps that allow users to secretly monitor text messages, emails and phone calls and to track the location of cell phone users without their knowledge was approved today by the Senate. The programs, which have names such as “girlfriend stalker” and “EZ Spy,” are often marketed as harmless applications; however, they are tools that can be used by perpetrators to stalk and prey upon their victims and cause severe and lasting harm.
“These apps allow a user to secretly monitor personal text messages, phone calls and emails and to track the exact location of someone without their knowledge,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic). “This bill will criminalize monitoring through these cell phone applications in the way they are commonly used – as a modern method of stalking. By creating penalties, which will directly address stalking carried our through this technology, we are sending a message to potential perpetrators that the use of these apps is a serious crime that will be addressed with the full force of the law.”
The bill (a Senate Committee Substitute for S-2473) would update and strengthen the state’s stalking laws to incorporate the installation and use of these cell phone monitoring programs. Specifically, it would make the crime of stalking, when carried out or assisted by the installation of a communication or location monitoring program or device on the victim’s cell phone or wireless mobile device, a crime of the third degree punishable by a three to five year term of imprisonment, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
“These so-called ‘stalking apps’ not only violate the privacy of the cell phone owner being monitored but can also be used to track down an unsuspecting victim by someone who is intent on causing them physical harm,” said Senator Gill. “The use of this technology without the consent of those being monitored amounts to stalking and should be treated with the seriousness it deserves. This bill will make it illegal to use the app to track someone without their knowledge, and will create serious penalties for those who do so in violation of the law.”
The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 35-0. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.