Court Explains Sufficiency of Indictments in New Jersey Stalking Case

What some people perceive as demonstrating romantic interest may constitute the crime of stalking under New Jersey law. Stalking, like most crimes, is comprised of multiple elements, and the State must prove each element to obtain a valid conviction. Recently, a New Jersey court discussed the elements of negligence in a ruling upholding a stalking conviction, in a case in which the defendant argued the State failed to properly prove his guilt. If you are charged with stalking or any other offense, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted New Jersey criminal defense attorney regarding your options.

The Indictment and Trial

It is reported that the defendant first met the victim in the summer of 2016. He obtained the victim’s email address and sent her a message, after which she advised she no longer wanted to communicate with him. He then repeatedly visited her home, and on multiple occasions, stated he was going to take her with him. He threatened the victim’s boyfriend as well, after which the victim called the police, who directed the defendant to leave the victim alone. The defendant continued to pursue the victim, though, and he was eventually charged with stalking. A jury convicted him, after which he appealed.

Proving a Stalking Crime in New Jersey

On appeal, the defendant argued in part that the judge incorrectly instructed the jury on the amended version of the stalking statute instead of the indicted offense, which relied on a prior version. Under New Jersey law, a person cannot be held to answer for a criminal offense without the indictment of a grand jury. The indictment must inform the person of the crime with which he is charged so that he can properly prepare a defense, which means that it must be sufficiently specific to allow the defendant to avoid a subsequent prosecution for the offense and to prevent the trial jury from substituting the charged crime with another offense.