Assembly Panel Clears Singleton, Benson & Giblin Bill to Protect Domestic Abuse Victims via Electronic Monitoring of Offenders

(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Monday released legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Daniel R. Benson and Thomas P. Giblin to help protect victims of domestic violence by allowing courts to order electronic monitoring of certain domestic violence offenders.

The bill, designated as “Lisa’s Law,” would establish a four-year pilot program in Ocean County for electronic monitoring of certain domestic violence offenders and notification to the victim when that offender is within a certain proximity. As part of the bill, the state Attorney General would be required to submit a report to the governor and the Legislature at the end of each year of the pilot program, evaluating the program and recommending whether it should be continued statewide.

The bill (A-321) is named after Letizia Zindell of Toms River who was murdered in 2009 by her former fiancé, Frank Frisco who later killed himself. The murder occurred a day after he was released from jail for violating a restraining order that Zindell had filed against him.

“Letizia Zindell’s killer violated the restraining order she filed against him repeatedly up until the day he took her life,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “Her tragic death shows more must be done to protect victims of domestic abuse.”

“Letizia Zindell tried to protect herself, but sadly, the restraining order she filed was not enough to stop her murderer,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Like Letizia, there are countless others who have perished at the hands of their abusers. We must do more.”

“Victims who have filed restraining orders against their abusers often need an additional layer of protection, and this program can help us save victims of abuse” said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). “It’s the right thing to do to further protect these victims.”

The pilot would apply to defendants charged with or convicted of a crime or offense involving domestic violence; or charged with or convicted of contempt of a domestic violence restraining order.

The court would be permitted to order electronic monitoring with victim notification in the following circumstances:

  • when a defendant charged with a crime or offense involving domestic violence or contempt of a domestic violence order is released from custody before trial on bail or personal recognizance;
  • when a defendant is convicted of a crime or offense involving domestic violence or contempt of a domestic violence order;
  • when a defendant is convicted of a crime or offense involving domestic violence or contempt of a domestic violence order and is sentenced to probation or a suspension of sentence; or
  • when a defendant convicted of a crime or offense involving domestic violence or contempt of a domestic violence order is released on parole.

The court would be required to hold a hearing prior to ordering electronic monitoring. The defendant would be required to undergo a risk assessment evaluation conducted by any of the following: a certified domestic violence specialist; a licensed psychiatrist; a licensed psychologist; a licensed social worker; or a licensed family therapist. The risk assessment would include a report on:

  • the gravity and seriousness of harm that the defendant inflicted on the victim in the commission of the domestic violence;
  • the defendant’s previous history of domestic violence, if any;
  • whether the defendant has access to a weapon; and
  • whether the defendant has a history of alcohol abuse or substance abuse.

If the court orders the defendant placed on electronic monitoring, the defendant would have to provide the victim with an electronic receptor device or cell phone which would notify the victim if the defendant is located within the exclusion zone, which would be defined by the court and would include the area in and around the victim’s residence, place of employment or business, or school or the victim’s child’s school.

Defendants placed on electronic monitoring by the court would be assessed a monitoring fee of $250, which could be waived by the court in cases of extreme financial hardship. Revenues from the fee would be forwarded to the newly created Domestic Violence Victim Notification Fund. In addition, the bill would appropriate $1 million from the General Fund to the Domestic Violence Victim Notification Fund. The Fund would be used to defray the costs of electronic monitoring.

The bill would also impose a fine of $200 on any person found by the court to have committed an act of domestic violence; however, the fee could be waived in cases of extreme financial hardship.

Within one year of the effective date and annually thereafter, the Attorney General would be required to submit a report to the governor and the Legislature evaluating the pilot program and recommending whether the program should be continued statewide.

The bill would take effect 90 days following enactment and would expire upon submission of the fourth annual report to the governor and Legislature.

The bill was released by the Assembly Appropriations Committee and now heads to the full Assembly for further consideration.