Cyber Harassment Can Now Be Considered an Act of Domestic Violence

The New Jersey Legislature recently added Cyber Harassment to the list of crimes that can be considered an act of domestic violence under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.

Cyber Harassment is committed where a person makes a communication in an online capacity through any electronic device or through social media with the purpose of harassing another person if the communication: (a) threatens to inflict injury or physical harm to any person or the property of any person; (b) knowingly sends posts, comments, requests, suggests, or proposes any lewd, indecent, or obscene material to or about a person with the intent to emotionally harm a reasonable person or place a reasonable person in fear of physical or emotional harm to his person; or (c) threatens to commit any crime against the person or the person’s property. NJSA 2C:33-4.1(a).

Based on Cyber Harassment’s inclusion as an offense under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, if your spouse, former spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend threatens you or posts something about you online or on social media, that is offensive, that person could be found to have committed an act of domestic violence. Furthermore, if a spouse, former spouse, or girlfriend or boyfriend posts nude or compromising pictures of you online or on social media, that person could also be found to have committed an act of domestic violence. The New Jersey Legislature’s action on this issue should be commended.

However, the question remains as to whether this amendment will hold people accountable and ensure that people who commit such acts face the appropriate consequences and are prohibited from committing further acts of domestic violence in the future. In fact, many websites allow people to post offensive comments, pictures and obscene material about others on line anonymously, which makes it very difficult to prove that the person who you believe posted the material actually posted it. By utilizing an expert, however, there are ways to obtain proof to establish that the person suspected of posting the material in fact posted it, albeit, at an expense. As such issues are very serious and could be quite harmful to a person’s personal and professional reputation, it may be worth the cost.

Ms. Lyons has authored and published numerous articles on a wide variety of topics like family law, the admissibility of expert testimony in federal courts, and free speech on the Internet. Recently, Ms. Lyons was honored by the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys as one of the “top 10 best female attorneys”.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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