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by in Criminal Appeals, Criminal Defense

State v. Fareed M. Gandhi, ? N.J. ?, 2010 N.J. LEXIS 147 (February 23, 2010) – Conviction for third degree stalking affirmed. “The anti-stalking statute that criminalized defendant’s actions provided that a person is guilty of stalking ‘if he purposefully or knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury to himself or a member of his immediate family or to fear the death of himself or a member of his immediate family.’

N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10(b)…. The Appellate Division, in an unpublished opinion, agreed with defendant’s argument that a conviction for stalking requires a showing of defendant’s purpose or knowledge of the impact of his behavior on his victim and, further, requires a showing that the conduct was repeated.

However, the Appellate Division held that the trial court’s instruction to the jury, which tracked the model jury charge for stalking, satisfactorily expressed those requirements…. [B]ased on the statutory language and the history to the statutory offense of stalking, we do not discern a legislative intent to restrict the applicability of the anti-stalking statute to a stalker-defendant who purposefully or knowingly intended that his course of conduct would cause a reasonable victim to fear bodily injury or death.

Rather the plain language of the statutory offense, reasonably read, prohibits a defendant from purposefully or knowingly engaging in a course of conduct, as defined in N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10(a)(1), that would cause such fear in an objectively reasonable person. A statute’s culpability requirement generally applies to all elements of a crime unless a contrary intent may be discerned. N.J.S.A. 2C:2-2(c)(1). Here we find such a contrary intent.

We find that the Legislature intended to cast a wide net of protection for stalking victims by broadly prohibiting and punishing persistent, unwanted, and frightening behaviors…. We hold that the statutory offense reaches and punishes one who engages in a course of stalking conduct even if that person is operating under the motivation of an obsessed and disturbed love that purportedly obscures appreciation of the terror that his or her conduct would reasonably cause to the victimized person. Defendant’s claim of error in the jury charge given by the trial court is therefore rejected.” (Warren S. Hecht; Michael J. Sullivan for amicus curiae ACDL-NJ)

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