In Sandy’s wake: Harsher penalties sought for crimes during states of emergency

TRENTON – As promised by several legislators, bills are being introduced calling for harsher penalties for crimes committed during states of emergency, such as during super storm Sandy.

S2346: This bill, sponsored by Sen. Kevin O’Toole, R-40, Cedar Grove, would upgrade the penalties for certain crimes when they are committed where a state of emergency is in force.

Robbery would be a crime of the first degree; burglary, theft, shoplifting, and interference with transportation would be upgraded to crimes of the second degree; trespassing, riot, and the unlawful interception of emergency communications would be ungraded to crimes of the third degree; the crime of failing to disperse would be upgraded a to a crime of the fourth degree; and defiant trespass would be upgraded to a disorderly persons offense.

S2351: This bill, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Buono, D-18, Metuchen, would require the court to consider as an aggravating circumstance during sentencing whether a defendant committed burglary, robbery, or theft in any jurisdiction where a declared  state of emergency was in force. 

S2356/A34897: This bill amends the “Disaster Control Act” by establishing additional mandatory penalties for committing theft, robbery or burglary during an emergency. 

This bill amends the act to establish a mandatory six-month term of imprisonment or a six-month term of community service if a person commits burglary, robbery or theft during an emergency. 

Finally, the bill clarifies that a person may be penalized under the Disaster Control Act while an emergency is ongoing. 

The Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. James Holzapfel, R-10, Brick; the Assembly version by 10th District Republicans David Wolfe and Gregory McGuckin.

Other lawmakers have said they would consider similar bills. Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-12, Little Silver, also has said he would introduce a bill to call for tougher penalties for storm-related crimes.

In Sandy’s wake: Harsher penalties sought for crimes during states of emergency