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Burkert Limits the Definition of Harassment

Many domestic violence cases center around allegations of harassment. The definition of harassment is when somebody intends to alarm or seriously annoy another person. To successfully obtain a final restraining order, the alleged victim must prove a predicate act of domestic violence.  Harassment is one example of such an act.  They must also prove that they are in fear of the defendant and need a final restraining order for protection.

The definition of harassment has been broad.  Courts have sought to err on the side of caution to appropriately protect victims of domestic violence.

Burkert

However, the Supreme Court, in the recent Burkert case, has narrowed the definition of harassment. As a result, the Constitutions of the United States and the State of New Jersey protect free speech in certain circumstances. As such, it is not harassment. Further, the Court held that the definition of harassment was not intended to protect against the common stresses, shocks and insults of life that come from responses to crude remarks and offensive expressions, teasing, rumors and general inappropriate behavior.

In its decision, the Court explained that to be harassment, there must be repeated communications directed at a person.  And it reasonably put that person in fear for their safety or security.  Or, that intolerably interferes with their reasonable expectation of privacy. The Court indicated examples of harassment would be that a person, every day, over the course of a week, repeatedly yells outside an ex-partner’s house during the night.  Or, a person repeatedly follows closely next to a woman importuning her for a date, making other unwanted comments, despite her constant requests to stop.

We are here to help victims of domestic violence, or those in need of representation defending a domestic violence matter.  Contact me at jlawrence@lawlawfirm.com for more information or to address other family law matters.

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