Assembly Panel Approves Comprehensive Legislative Strategy to Combat Domestic Violence

Five-bill Package is Sponsored by Quijano, Gusciora, Spencer, Tucker, Caputo, Johnson, Vainieri Huttle, Lampitt, Riley, Burzichelli & Mosquera

An Assembly panel on Thursday unanimously approved a comprehensive legislative strategy sponsored by Assembly Democrats to combat domestic violence by expanding protections for victims and providing law enforcement with better tools to deal with offenders.

The five-bill package is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Reed Gusciora, L. Grace Spencer, Cleopatra Tucker, Ralph Caputo, Gordon Johnson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Pamela Lampitt, Celeste Riley, John Burzichelli and Gabriela Mosquera.

The package includes the following bills:

* A-1310, sponsored by Quijano and Gusciora, would require that defendants convicted of a domestic violence offense who are placed on probation or have their sentence suspended must attend domestic violence counseling.

“In order to effectively combat domestic violence, there needs to be a twofold approach: cracking down on offenders while also enhancing protections for victims,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Counseling for offenders is a good start to systemically tackling the root of the problem.”

“Counseling will essentially help us treat the disease, rather than just masking the symptoms,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This is a smart component to a comprehensive strategy to tackle domestic violence.”

* A-1579, sponsored by Spencer, Tucker and Caputo, would create a self-defense justification for victims of domestic violence.

“The bill would make evidence surrounding a domestic violence restraining order admissible and relevant to a determination of whether the use of force was justifiable by a victim,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “This is a powerful tool for victims of domestic violence.”

“This will enhance protections for domestic violence victims by allowing them to claim self-defense in court if they are compelled to use force against someone whom they have a restraining order against,” said Tucker (D-Essex).

“Self-defense justification is a vital, and in my opinion long overdue, component to increasing legal protections for victims of domestic violence,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “Hopefully this will help empower victims and also send a clear message to would-be offenders.”

* A-1677, sponsored by Johnson, Vainieri Huttle and Lampitt, would establish a supervised program to facilitate the reintegration of certain domestic violence victims back into the community.

“This program is designed to assist individuals who have been convicted and incarcerated for committing crimes against their abusers,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “Making sure they’re supervised enhances protections for victims, while also helping to lead them down the right path to reintegration.”

“Inmates selected for the program will have a strategic reentry plan laid out for them that they must follow so they’re not thrown back out on the street without any guidance for corrective action,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Hopefully this will help decrease the chances for repeat offenses.”

“For somebody who may have grown up around domestic violence their whole life, prison might not be enough to change this pattern of behavior,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Laying out a reentry plan tailored to their circumstances is a smart approach to help break the cycle of abuse.”

* A-1953, sponsored by Riley, Burzichelli and Mosquera, would require law enforcement officers to search domestic violence restraining order registries, upon each arrest, to determine if the person arrested has had a domestic violence restraining order entered against them.

“We’ve heard many tragic stories involving domestic violence where the victim had a restraining order against the offender, but they somehow slipped through the cracks,” said Riley ((D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Hopefully this will help eliminate many of those circumstances.”

“This is another important tool in this comprehensive package to help assist law enforcement in cracking down on potentially repeat perpetrators of domestic violence,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem).

* A-2154, sponsored by Riley and Mosquera, would permit a witness who is under the age of 16 or a victim of any age to testify by closed circuit television in prosecutions for crimes or offenses involving domestic violence.

“Having to recount an abusive relationship in front of your abuser can be unnerving for an individual who’s been battered,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Allowing victims to testify via close-circuit television will enable them to confront their abusers without fear.”

The bills were all approved by the Assembly Women and Children Committee and now await consideration by the full Assembly.