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(TRENTON) – A two-bill package sponsored by Assemblyman Ralph Caputo to crackdown on gang activity and burglary is advancing toward law.
One bill (A-2118) would upgrade the crime of burglary.
Burglary is now punishable as a crime of the second degree if the defendant either was armed or inflicted, attempted to inflict or threatened, bodily injury during the course of the offense. In all other circumstances, burglary is a crime of the third degree.
Caputo’s bill would classify the crime of burglary as a crime of the second degree if the actor unlawfully a building, whether or not a person is actually present.
“Residents throughout New Jersey have long had enough with crime, but at least have been able to seek comfort within their own homes,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “Now, all too often, that is even at risk with increasingly brazen burglaries. This bill sends a clear message that if you violate the sanctum of someone’s home, you’re going to face real and tough penalties.”
A crime of the third degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment between three to five years, a fine not to exceed $15,000 or both. A crime of the second degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment between five to 10 years, a fine not to exceed $150,000 or both.
The other bill (A-2470) would require that the court, in making bail determinations, to consider whether the defendant is a member of a gang.
“The prosecutor would have opportunity to present evidence, and if that evidence is substantial, the judge would have to take that into consideration and even not issue bail, if appropriate” Caputo said. “This is an unusual remedy to unusual circumstances, but the fact is that the gang problem is so severe. When gang members have been before the court before, and it’s been documented that they are gang members, the judge has to have some kind of power to keep that person incarcerated to protect public safety.”
Current law does provide for the court to elect, for good cause shown, to impose a higher bail, but requires the court to place on the record its reasons for imposing bail in an amount exceeding $2,500.
Under this bill these bail limitations would not apply if the court finds a reasonable basis to believe that a defendant is a member of a “criminal street gang” or has committed a crime of “gang criminality.”
Both bills were released by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.