Exempting first responders and campus police from liability for damages caused in forced entry during an emergency, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joe Danielsen, Vince Mazzeo and Eliana Pintor Marin cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
The bill (A-306) would provide immunity from civil liability to compensated and volunteer public and private first responders – including emergency medical services personnel, law enforcement officers, and firefighters – as well as police officers of independent higher education institutions for any damages from forcible entry into a home, business, or other structure where an emergency is reported.
“Ultimately, this bill is designed to ensure that no one in need of emergency assistance goes without care because they cannot physically or verbally grant entry into their property,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset).
“If someone’s life is on the line and a first responder or campus police officer has to break down a door to get in, it’s counter intuitive to subject them to liability when their actions could mean the difference between life and death,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic).
This immunity would only apply when the decision to force entry is based upon a good faith belief that it is necessary to provide emergency medical care or to prevent imminent bodily harm when no occupant of the property responds to the first responder’s requests for entry within a reasonable period.
“First responders are trained with one goal in mind – saving lives,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “If they believe forced entry is the only way to save a life, they’re going to move heaven and earth to do it. We should have their backs and protect them from liability. The same goes for officers on our college campuses.”
The bill now goes to the Speaker for further consideration.