New Jersey lawmakers are seeking stronger penalties for harassment crimes, including invasion of privacy and cyber-bullying in an effort to curb these violations.
This action is partially in response to the recent incident at Rutgers University where Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, two students, allegedly videoed a third student, Tyler Clementi, in an intimate encounter and streamed it live over the internet. Clementi later took his own life. Ravi as well as Wei face charges of invasion of privacy, currently a third degree offense. These charges carry a penalty of up to three to five years in jail and/or a fine of up to $15,000. (1)
Senator Shirley K. Turner, a Democrat from Mercer County, has proposed legislation that would elevate invasion of privacy to a second degree offense. As such, it would carry a prison term of up to five to ten years and/or a fine of up to $150,000. The increased jail time, she hopes, would deter similar crimes from happening in the future. (2)
An invasion of privacy is basically an assault of one’s dignity. Therefore, in New Jersey, the reproduction of images – films, videos, photos or by other means – of another person without consent or knowledge, where a “reasonable” person would assume to be private is an invasion of privacy.(1)
In the Rutgers’ case, Clementi’s encounter occurred in his dorm room, a place where he could “reasonably” expect to have privacy.
In similar actions:
* Assemblywomen Valerie Vainien (D-Bergen) and Mary Pat Angelinin (R-Monmouth) are working on a bipartisan bill that has been called the “anti-bullying bill of rights.” (2)
* Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) this week introduced a bill aimed at fighting harassment on college campuses by requiring colleges to establish policies to prevent students from being harassed. This bill would also categorize cyber bullying as harassment. Additionally, Lautenberg co-sponsored a similar bill aimed at ending harassment in public schools. (3)
* Republican legislators from Ocean County supported a bill that would make cyber harassment a crime in the State. Under this bill, which is supported by Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf, Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove, and Senator Christopher J. Connors, any communication transmitted electronically that was intended to harass would be deemed a “petty disorderly persons offense.” (2)