Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Marlene Caride and Nicholas Chiaravalloti to significantly stiffen penalties for stalking a victim under the age of 18 was approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
“Stalking behaviors are designed to elicit fear,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “The younger the victim, the more lasting and damaging that trauma can be. Many of our criminal statutes carry stiffer penalties when the victim is a minor and stalking should be no different.”
“There is no excuse for stalking, period,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “But given the enormous damage it can cause to extremely young victims, we need to send a stronger message that this will not be tolerated.”
Specifically, the bill (A-3858) would upgrade the crime of stalking from a crime of the fourth degree to a crime of the third degree when the victim is less than 18 years old.
Currently, stalking is a fourth degree crime, unless it is a second or subsequent offense or occurs in violation of an existing court order, in which case it is upgraded to a third degree crime. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by up to 18 months in jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Under the bill, stalking a victim under 18 would be upgraded to a crime of the third degree, which is punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000 or both.
The measure was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and now heads to the full Assembly for consideration. It would take effect immediately upon enactment.