STATE OF NEW JERSEY
PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2022 SESSION
Assemblyman ANTHONY S. VERRELLI
District 15 (Hunterdon and Mercer)
Assemblywoman VERLINA REYNOLDS-JACKSON
District 15 (Hunterdon and Mercer)
Assemblywoman ANGELA V. MCKNIGHT
District 31 (Hudson)
Authorizes funding to protect safety of cooperating witnesses; expands Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights to provide these witnesses with certain guarantees.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel.
An Act concerning the rights of certain witnesses to crime and amending P.L.2016, c.97; P.L.1985, c.249; and P.L.1991, c.329.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. Section 1 of P.L.2016, c.97 (C.52:4B-12.1) is amended to read as follows:
1. a. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 10 of P.L.1971, c.317 (C.52:4B-10) or the provisions of section 12 of P.L.1971, c.317 (C.52:4B-12), the Victims of Crime Compensation Office may, upon application, order the payment of:
(1) relocation expenses for a witness and the family of the witness; and
(2) expenses related to protecting the safety of a cooperating witness.
b. As used in this section[, "witness"]:
(1) “cooperating witness” means a witness who testifies for the government to help prosecute a crime, and includes a confidential informant; and
(2) “witness” means a person who witnessed the commission of any of the offenses listed under section 11 of P.L.1971, c.317 (C.52:4B-11) and who has been threatened as a result.
(cf: P.L.2016, c.97, s.1)
2. Section 3 of P.L.1985, c.249 (C.52:4B-36) is amended to read as follows:
3. The Legislature finds and declares that crime victims and witnesses are entitled to the following rights:
a. To be treated with dignity and compassion by the criminal justice system;
b. To be informed about the criminal justice process;
c. To be free from intimidation, harassment or abuse by any person including the defendant or any other person acting in support of or on behalf of the defendant, due to the involvement of the victim or witness in the criminal justice process;
d. To have inconveniences associated with participation in the criminal justice process minimized to the fullest extent possible;
e. To make at least one telephone call provided the call is reasonable in both length and location called;
f. To medical assistance reasonably related to the incident in accordance with the provisions of the "Criminal Injuries Compensation Act of 1971," P.L.1971, c.317 (C.52:4B-1 et seq.);
g. To be notified in a timely manner, if practicable, if presence
in court is not needed or if any scheduled court proceeding has been adjourned or cancelled;
h. To be informed about available remedies, financial assistance and social services;
i. To be compensated for loss sustained by the victim whenever possible;
j. To be provided a secure, but not necessarily separate, waiting area during court proceedings;
k. To be advised of case progress and final disposition and to confer with the prosecutor's representative so that the victim may be kept adequately informed;
l. To the prompt return of property when no longer needed as evidence;
m. To submit a written statement, within a reasonable amount of time, about the impact of the crime to a representative of the prosecuting agency which shall be considered prior to the prosecutor's final decision concerning whether formal criminal charges will be filed, whether the prosecutor will consent to a request by the defendant to enter into a pre-trial program, and whether the prosecutor will make or agree to a negotiated plea;
n. To make, prior to sentencing, an in-person statement directly to the sentencing court concerning the impact of the crime.
This statement is to be made in addition to the statement permitted for inclusion in the presentence report by N.J.S.2C:44-6;
o. To have the opportunity to consult with the prosecuting authority prior to the conclusion of any plea negotiations, and to have the prosecutor advise the court of the consultation and the victim's position regarding the plea agreement, provided however that nothing herein shall be construed to alter or limit the authority or discretion of the prosecutor to enter into any plea agreement which the prosecutor deems appropriate;
p. To be present at any judicial proceeding involving a crime or any juvenile proceeding involving a criminal offense, except as otherwise provided by Article I, paragraph 22 of the New Jersey Constitution;
q. To be notified of any release or escape of the defendant; [and]
r. To appear in any court before which a proceeding implicating the rights of the victim is being held, with standing to file a motion or present argument on a motion filed to enforce any right conferred herein or by Article I, paragraph 22 of the New Jersey Constitution, and to receive an adjudicative decision by the court on any such motion; and
s. In the case of a cooperating witness, to be provided assistance before and during trial to cope with the psychological and practical obstacles of testifying; to receive protective measures before, during, and after a hearing or trial; and to have established court
procedures ensuring safety while testifying.
(cf: P.L.2012, c.27, s.1)
3. Section 20 of P.L.1991, c.329 (C.52:4B-43.1) is amended to read as follows:
20. a. The Victim and Witness Advocacy Fund, established in the State Treasury by section 2 of P.L.1979, c.396 (C.2C:43-3.1), administered by the Department of Law and Public Safety through the Division of Criminal Justice, pursuant to rules and regulations promulgated by the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, to support the development and provision of services to victims and witnesses of crimes and for related administrative costs, is hereby continued.
b. The division is authorized to continue disbursing moneys deposited in the Victim and Witness Advocacy Fund to fund the operation of the State Office of Victim and Witness Advocacy, to fund the 21 county offices of Victim and Witness Advocacy, and to provide funding to other public entities as deemed appropriate for the implementation of the Attorney General Standards to Ensure the Rights of Crime Victims.
c. In addition, the division, pursuant to rules and regulations to be promulgated by the director to ensure that funds are given to qualified entities that will provide services consistent with [this act] P.L.1991, c.329 (C.2C:46-4.1 et al.), shall award grants to qualified public entities and not-for-profit organizations that provide direct services to victims and witnesses, including but not limited to such services as:
(1) shelter, food and clothing;
(2) medical and legal advocacy services;
(3) 24-hour crisis response services and 24-hour hotlines;
(4) information and referral and community education;
(5) psychiatric treatment programs;
(6) expanded services for victims' families and significant others;
(7) short and long term counseling and support groups;
(8) emergency locksmith and carpentry services;
(9) financial services; [and]
(10) medical testing ordered by a court pursuant to section 4 of P.L.1993, c.364 (C.2C:43-2.2); and
(11) services to ensure the safety of cooperating witnesses and their families.
d. Organizations eligible to apply for grants under subsection c. of this section include, but are not limited to:
(1) member programs of the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women, including but not limited to:
(a) Atlantic County Women's Center;
(b) Shelter Our Sisters, (Bergen County);
(c) Providence House/ Willingboro Shelter, (Burlington County);
(d) YWCA/SOLACE, (Camden County);
(e) Family Violence Project and The Safe House, (Essex County);
(f) People Against Spouse Abuse, (Gloucester County);
(g) Battered Women's Program, (Hudson County);
(h) Women's Crisis Services, (Hunterdon County);
(i) Womanspace, Inc., (Mercer County);
(j) Women Aware, Inc., (Middlesex County);
(k) Women's Resource and Survival Center, (Monmouth County);
(l) Jersey Battered Women's Services, Inc., (Morris County);
(m) Passaic County Women's Center, (Passaic County);
(n) Salem County Women's Services, (Salem County);
(o) Resource Center for Women and Their Families, (Somerset County);
(p) Domestic Abuse Services, Inc., (Sussex County);
(q) Project Protect, (Union County);
(r) Domestic Abuse and Rape Crisis Center, Inc., (Warren County); and
(s) Ocean County Women's Center; and
(2) rape care services and programs, including, but not limited to:
(a) Atlantic County Women's Center, (Atlantic County);
(b) Bergen County Rape Crisis Center, (Bergen County);
(c) Women Against Rape, (Burlington County);
(d) Women Against Rape, (Camden County);
(e) Coalition against Rape and Abuse, (Cape May County);
(f) Cumberland County Guidance Center;
(g) North Essex Helpline and Sexual Assault Support Service, (Essex County);
(h) Gloucester County Rape Assault Prevention Program;
(i) Christ Hospital Mental Health Center, serving Hudson County;
(j) Women's Crisis Services, (Hunterdon County);
(k) Rape Crisis Program Mercer County YWCA, (Mercer County);
(l) Rape Crisis Intervention Center Roosevelt Hospital, (Middlesex County);
(m) Women's Resource Center, (Monmouth County);
(n) Parenting Center, Morristown Hospital, (Morris County);
(o) Ocean County Advisory Commission on the Status of Women, (Ocean County);
(p) Passaic County Women's Center, (Passaic County);
(q) Salem County Rape Crisis Service, (Salem County);
(r) Rape Crisis Service of Somerset and Richard Hall Mental Health Center Somerset County Coalition for the prevention and Treatment of Sexual Abuse;
(s) Project Against Sexual Assault Abuse, (Sussex County);
(t) Union County Rape Crisis Center;
(u) Domestic Abuse and Rape Crisis Center, (Warren County); and
(v) Alternatives to Domestic Violence of Hackensack, N.J. (Bergen County).
e. The [Director] director shall report annually to the Governor and the Legislature pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1) concerning the administration of the Victim and Witness Advocacy Fund and the administration and award of grants authorized by this section.
(cf: P.L.1993, c.364, s.2)
4. This act shall take effect on the first day of the fourth month next following enactment.
This bill specifically authorizes the Victims of Crime Compensation Office (VCCO) to pay expenses related to protecting the safety of cooperating witnesses. The bill defines a “cooperating witness” as a witness who testifies for the government to help prosecute a crime, and includes a confidential informant.
The bill also authorizes the Division of Criminal Justice in the Department of Law and Public Safety to award grants from the Victim and Witness Advocacy Fund to public entities and not-for-profit organizations to provide services that protect the safety of cooperating witnesses.
Finally, the bill amends the Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights to expand the rights of cooperating witnesses. The bill gives these witnesses the right to be provided assistance before and during trial to cope with the psychological and practical obstacles of testifying. These witnesses also would be given the right to receive protective measures before, during, and after a hearing or trial and to have established court procedures ensuring their safety while testifying.
According to the sponsor, witnesses who risk their own safety and well-being to aid in the prosecution of crimes, including gang-related violence, often are retaliated against in the form of intimidation, death threats, violence, and murder. This deters other witnesses from testifying in criminal trials. This situation necessitates additional funding to be dedicated to services that provide these witnesses with enhanced protections. The Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights also needs to specifically guarantee the rights of this subgroup of witnesses.