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Assembly Committee Clears Lopez, Mukherji & McKnight Bill Amending Law to Upgrade Crimes Against an Armed Security Officer

Legislation Expands “Detective Melvin Vincent Santiago” Law

(TRENTON) – Amending the law named after a Jersey City detective tragically killed in 2014, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Yvonne Lopez, Raj Mukherji and Angela McKnight to increase the penalties for the crimes of assaulting or disarming an armed security officer was advanced by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Detective Melvin Vincent Santiago’s Law, enacted in 2016, extended the Security Officers Registration Act (SORA) to armed security guards employed by private companies. It applied strict regulations imposed by the Division of State Police. Prior to the law, SORA only applied to guards employed by security guard companies.

The bill (A-1400) would amend criminal code to upgrade simple assault to aggravated assault if committed against an armed security officer in the performance of his duties. It would also amend current law to include armed security officers with law enforcement and corrections officers in the current crime of disarming an officer.

“The life of young Jersey City Detective Melvin Vincent Santiago was tragically cut short while on the job,” said Lopez (D-Middlesex). “New Jersey should have the strongest penalties for those who commit crimes against those who pledge to protect and serve our communities. The bill helps to ensure that criminals pay the highest price for assaulting armed personnel.”

“Detective Santiago made the ultimate sacrifice, but his loss was not in vain,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Just as Mel’s eponymous law made our state safer, this amendment recognizes the risks taken by armed security guards and upgrades the penalty for anyone who dares assault or disarm armed personnel.”

“Jersey City suffered a tragic loss when Detective Santiago was shot and killed,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “New Jersey courts should be able to impart the strongest penalty on criminals who take reckless action against those who are there to make sure neighborhoods and families are kept safe from harm.”

Aggravated assault is a crime of the third degree if the if the victim suffers bodily injury. Otherwise, it is a crime of the fourth degree, which is punishable by a term of up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

The bill now goes to the Speaker for further consideration.