Bills involving Megan’s Law, DRPA, DWI penalties released

TRENTON – The Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee today released several bills, including ones involving Megan’s Law, the Delaware River Port Authority, and penalties for drunken drivers.

A1015: This bill, released unanimously, would increase the penalties for driving drunk with a minor as a passenger. 

The bill would increase the penalty from a $1,000 fine or six months in jail to a fine of $10,000 or 18 month in jail, or both.

If there is serious bodily injury to the minor, then the penalty could increase to a third-degree crime, imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.

A1657: This bill requires the Division of Criminal Justice to develop for all law enforcement officers and prosecutors a training course and curriculum on the handling, investigation and response procedures concerning reports of sexual offenses. 

The bill was released with Assemblyman Sean Kean voting no.

The training would include information concerning the impact of sexual violence on society, dynamics of sexual violence, and a victim’s right to rape care advocacy.

The N.J. Association of Corrections and the Probation Association of New Jersey supported the bill.

Dan Phillips of the Administrative Office of the Courts raised an issue regarding mandatory training because of the judicial caseload being dealt with, coupled with 50 judicial vacancies, case backlogs, and millions of filings annually in the court system.

It is an important issue but it does make up a small percentage of the overall caseload, he testified, and a mandatory training program further taxes already-limited resources.

Committee Chair Charles Mainor said he would communicate to the sponsor to touch base with AOC on their concerns.

A1667/S1173: This bill requires the Department of Corrections to transfer to the Victims of Crime Compensation Office restitution payments owed to victims who have not been located by the DOC and have not come forward to claim the payment for two years.  Payments that have been transferred to the VCCO would be used to satisfy claims under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act of 1971.

The bill passed with Assemblyman Dave Rible abstaining and Sean Kean voting no.

A1683: This bill, held at the sponsor’s request, would make it a crime of the fourth degree for a person to purchase, own or possess ammunition if the person has been previously convicted of certain crimes.

The penalty would be imprisonment up to 18 months or a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

A2131: This bill would expand Megan’s Law, so that records and files containing the information and documentation used to make Tier assessments be made available to the Department of Human Services and county and municipal welfare agencies for the exclusive use in placing homeless families and person in emergency shelters, including hotels and motels.

Currently, law enforcement agencies and the Division of Youth and Family Services have access to such information.

The bill was released unanimously.

A2593: This bill clarifies that the local fire mutual aid plan of each municipality or fire district must include a proposed command structure, and specifically requires that battalion and deputy chiefs be included as part of the county fire mutual aid plan.

The bill passed 9-2 with Assembly members Erik Peterson and Gregory McGuckin voting no.

According to the sponsor, a clearly designated and delineated support command structure is essential when a number of different fire departments are called to respond to an emergency situation.

The N.J. Deputy Fire Chiefs Association and the Professional Firefighters Association of N.J. supported the bill.

Some committee members asked why legislation was even needed.  Representatives of those two organizations said, however, the fact is that there are incidents in which chain of command, and who is in charge, is not as clear as it should be.

A2763/S1816: This bill would afford police officers of the Delaware River Port Authority the power to inspect hazardous materials carriers and cargoes.

Under current law, only members of the State Police, police officers of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and designated Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection personnel are authorized to undertake such inspections.

The Fuel Merchants Association opposed the bill.

But Sgt. Joseph Zito of the DRPA said they already have enforcement power in Pennsylvania, and they are asking for the similar ability if they see a potentially dangerous situation in New Jersey.

Assembly members Eric Peterson and Gregory McGuckin inquired into whether there was a need for this bill, whether state police were unable to handle such matters, and would this lead to more manpower being trained for this work. Zito said there are six personnel now trained for these inspections, and he didn’t think there would be any more trained as a result of this.

The bill passed 8-3 with Peterson, McGuckin, and David Rible opposed.

Bills involving Megan’s Law, DRPA, DWI penalties released