Kenneth Vercammen is a Middlesex County trial attorney who has published 130 articles in national and New Jersey publications on Criminal Law and litigation topics. Appointments can be scheduled at 732-572-0500. He is author of the ABA's book "Criminal Law Forms".
2053 Woodbridge Avenue - Edison, NJ 08817

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, a person commits the offense of harassment if, "with purpose to harass" he:

a. Makes, or causes to be made, a communication or communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm;

b. Subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so; or

c. Engages in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other person.

Thus, "integral to a finding of harassment under either section is the establishment of the purpose to harass . . . ." Corrente v. Corrente, 281 N.J. Super. 243, 249 (App. Div. 1995).

As was emphasized in Corrente, it is not sufficient that plaintiff feel alarmed or threatened. Id. at 249. Plaintiff's subjective feelings are not a substitute for the required judicial finding of intent to harass by the defendant.

In a deeply dysfunctional marriage, it is not uncommon for emotions to boil over, and for angry words to be hurdled about, often peppered with profanities. Under similar circumstances, we have held that a husband's statement that he would bury his wife, uttered after she announced her intention to obtain a divorce, did not constitute harassment. Peranio v. Peranio, 280 N.J. Super. 47, 56 (App. Div. 1995). Even the exchange of vulgarities on numerous occasions and inappropriate expressions of anger, including kicking a garbage can in the presence of the parties' young children, is not harassment. J.N.S. v. D.B.S., 302 N.J. Super. 525, 527 (App. Div. 1997).

Finding a party guilty of having committed an act of domestic violence is a serious matter. We have repeatedly held that domestic violence restraining orders have serious consequences to a defendant, and therefore should not be entered without an adequate factual basis. Chernesky v. Fedorczyk, 346 N.J. Super. 34, 41 (App. Div. 2001). The absence of the statutorily required judicial finding compels a court to vacate the restraints imposed by the court.

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