Sam Hunt's song, "Breaking Up Was Easy In The '90s," raises an interesting question -- Has technology made it easier or harder to get through a breakup?
In the 90’s, after a break up, information about an ex was limited and generally provided by a friend who happened to see him/her out at a bar or on a date. Today, not only has technology (i.e., IPhones/Facebook & Instagram/ Snapchat) made it shockingly easy to find everything there is to know about someone, but it has also changed how we communicate. For example, a "family chat" in the '90s likely meant that the family was talking around the dinner table or in the family room. Today, a "family chat" is more likely to mean a group text message or a snap story shared with family.
While there are “some” positives to these technological advancements, there are many pitfalls as well – especially in the context of domestic violence and text messaging.
Let’s start off with drunk or angry texting. Repeatedly sending angry or drunk texts to an ex can constitute harassment or cyber harassment under New Jersey’s Domestic Violence laws and can result in the issuance of a Domestic Violence Restraining Order against you if a court concludes that the drunk or angry text(s) were sent to upset or alarm your ex (or sent in efforts to control their behavior). Similarly, sending texts threatening to disclose "personal and sensitive information acquired during your relationship" can constitute a violation of the Domestic Violence laws and also result in the issuance of a Domestic Violence restraining order against you.
In a recent unpublished Appellate Court decision (BMO v. PMA1), the defendant was found guilty of violating New Jersey's Domestic Violence Law because he sent sensitive and private messages to his ex's mother, brother, father, and employer about his ex. He sent these messages to everyone in an attempt to hurt/control his ex after they broke up. As such, while the contents of the text messages may have been truthful, same is not a defense to a domestic violence complaint.
Believe it or not, many domestic violence complaints are based on excessive text messaging or because of the threats contained in the text(s). In the eyes of the Court in BMO v. PMA, the defendant’s threats and disclosures enabled him to cause his ex to feel threatened; controlled; and overwhelmed. The court found the defendant guilty of Domestic Violence based on his “intent” to cause emotional harm to his ex. Unfortunately, today it is too easy to act impulsively when angry or when a relationship ends and you wind up sending an inappropriate text (or series of texts), which you quickly regret. The problem is that once something is said (or sent via text), it cannot be unsaid (or unsent).
There are 2 lessons to take away:
1 - If you are the victim of this sort of conduct -- i.e., where your ex has disclosed private and sensitive information about you to third parties or engaged in behavior to cause you fear of such disclosure, you have legal recourse under New Jersey’s Domestic Violence laws.
2 - If you are upset about an ex, you must be careful about what you say concerning him/her when talking to others. If you share private and sensitive information about an ex (or current partner) with third parties (or you threaten to disclose such information), you are at risk for violating New Jersey's Domestic Violence Act and at risk for having a restraining order entered against you.
1 B.M.O. v. P.M.A., 2021 WL 1561369 (App. Div. 2021)