Measure Would Require Witnesses to be Notified of Defendant’s Release or Change in Custody
(TRENTON) — The Assembly Appropriations Committee recently approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John J. Burzichelli, Timothy J. Eustace, Nelson T. Albano and Peter J. Barnes III to require a crime witness to be notified when the offender is released from custody.
“The witness of the crime has just as much right to be notified of changes in the defendant’s status as the victim of the crime,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem). “Especially in the case of violent crimes or domestic violence, both the victim and the witness may be at risk.”
“This legislation would expand current law to help protect those who have the courage to stand up in the name justice,” said Eustace (D-Bergen, Passaic). “In these cases, witnesses are just as vulnerable as the victims. Witnesses should receive notification when a change in the case occurs.”
The bill (A-3692) would amend certain statutory sections to require the county Office of Victim and Witness Advocacy or prosecutor, in addition to notifying the victim, to also notify any witness to the crime who has requested such notification. Under current law, only crime victims or their relatives must be notified.
“In some cases, those who request to be notified are concerned about threat or intimidation,” said Albano (D-Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland). “Extending notification to keep witnesses informed about changes to the case is the right thing to do.”
“A citizen who participates in a criminal proceeding should be told of a violent offender’s release,” said Barnes (D-Middlesex). “This would be a small legislative action that would extend the opportunity for more New Jerseyans to be kept informed for their own safety.”
The bill would direct the Attorney General to maintain or arrange for the State to participate in an automatic notification system to alert crime victims, witnesses, and other appropriate persons when an offender is released from custody or is transferred within the correctional system. Victims, witnesses, and, as determined by the prosecuting agency, other appropriate persons would supply contact information and automatic notification will alert when custody status changes.
The legislation now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.