Assembly Judiciary releases bills on cigarette smuggling, notaries public, more

TRENTON – The Assembly Judiciary Committee released bills Monday dealing with cigarette smuggling, providing a “shield’’ for rape victims in civil cases, and cracking down on notaries public practicing law.

A101: This bill would create a “rape shield” statute for civil cases regarding a victim’s prior sexual conduct. It passed unanimously.

Under current law, the “rape shield” statute in criminal prosecutions provides that evidence of the victim’s previous sexual conduct is not admissible except under certain circumstances. 

The bill would establish similar provisions in civil actions alleging conduct which would constitute sexual assault or sexual harassment.

An earlier version of this bill was approved unanimously by the Assembly in 2010 but never advanced far in the Senate.

The Assembly sponsors are Amy Handlin, R-13, Belford; and Patrick Diegnan, D-18, South Plainfield.

A581: The bill provides that when an indigent person is imprisoned as a result of a default of a court-imposed financial obligation, the court may order that credit be given against the amount owed for each day of confinement.

This bill, through various incarnations, dates to 2002. In 2009 it actually cleared the Assembly 65-14.

The prime sponsor is Grace Spencer, D-29, Newark. 

Nellie Pou, who as an assemblywoman introduced the earlier versions, now sponsors a companion bill in the Senate, S645.

Dan Phillips of the Administrative Office of the Courts said in support that this bill modernizes some archaic statutes, and pointed out it is very rare – a last resort – when someone is incarcerated under such a situation.

It was released unanimously.

A2512/A3721: This legislation, actually a committee substitute for these two bills, prohibits notaries public from falsely representing themselves as attorneys, and provides that a notary public who is not licensed to practice law in this state must post notices to the public acknowledging that fact. The notice also would have to posted in their office.

“We’re trying to prevent scams,’’ Assemblywoman Marlene Caride said, because for example Latinos who do not understand English could be taken in by such people.

It passed unanimously out of committee today.

A3278: This bill increases fines and sentences for cigarette smuggling. 

For example, the penalty for selling unstamped or smuggled cigarettes would rise from $250 to  $1,000.

Selling unstamped packages of cigarettes would leap from a misdemeanor to a third-degree crime.

Dean Durling, president and CEO of the 132-store Quick Chek chain, said bootlegged or counterfeit cigarettes account for approximately 40 percent of the cigarettes consumed in the state.

As a result, the state loses $80 million in sales taxes and about $5 million in excise taxes, Durling told the committee. He said tobacco sales account for about 38 percent of a typical convenience store’s  in-store sales.

It passed unanimously.

A3544: This bill mandates that a domestic violence victim be notified when an offender is released from custody, and the victim’s location must remain confidential.

It passed unanimously.

Assembly Judiciary releases bills on cigarette smuggling, notaries public, more