Assembly Oks Burzichelli, Eustace, Albano & Barnes Bill to Broaden Protections for Crime Witnesses

Measure Would Require Crime Witnesses to be Notified of Defendant’s Release or Change in Custody

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 was approved 77-1 by the full Assembly on Monday.

“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 of 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.”

Under current law, the Office of Victim and Witness Advocacy automatically notifies crime victims when defendants convicted of certain serious crimes are about to be released from incarceration, unless the crime victims have requested not to be notified.

The bill (A-3692) approved today would require that upon the request of a witness or, any other person determined appropriate by the prosecutor, the Office of Victim and Witness Advocacy would notify them of the impending release as well.

“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 them when custody status changes.

The legislation now awaits further consideration by the Senate.