A bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Carmelo G. Garcia and Joe Danielsen to raise the penalty for anyone who falsely incriminates another person in a criminal activity has been signed into law.
Under previous law, a person who knowingly gave false information to a law enforcement officer in order to implicate another person would have committed a crime of the fourth degree. The new law (A-1972) upgrades false incrimination to a crime of the third degree. In cases in which the victim was implicated in a first or second degree crime, false incrimination would be a crime of the second degree.
The sponsors noted that the new law will deter persons from filing these false reports and squandering public resources.
“The police must be able to depend on the information received from an individual,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “Following false leads squanders valuable time during an investigation. This crime is not one that should be taken lightly. In many cases, time can mean the difference between life and death or catching the perpetrator and not.”
A crime of the third degree is punishable by three to five years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000 or both. A crime of the second degree is punishable by five to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $150,000 or both.
The law also upgrades making a fictitious report, previously a disorderly persons offense, to a crime of the fourth degree. Whereas the penalty for a disorderly persons offense is imprisonment for up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000 or both, a fourth degree crime is punishable by up to 18 months’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.
“When New Jersey’s law enforcement officers spend time and effort following a false lead, it endangers entire communities,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “We have to regard this as the serious public safety concern it is.”
The measure received unanimous approval from both houses of the legislature.