General Assembly Unanimously Approves Comprehensive Legislative Strategy to Combat Domestic Violence

Six-bill Package is Sponsored by Vainieri Huttle, Quijano, Mosquera, Garcia, Gusciora, Spencer, Tucker, Caputo, Riley, Burzichelli

The General Assembly on Monday 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 six-bill package is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Annette Quijano, Gabriela Mosquera, Carmelo Garcia, Reed Gusciora, L. Grace Spencer, Cleopatra Tucker, Ralph Caputo, Celeste Riley and John Burzichelli.

The package includes the following bills:

* A-2163, sponsored by Vainieri Huttle, Quijano, Mosquera and Garcia, would create a 16-member task force to review current law, practices, and procedures in New Jersey concerning domestic violence and abuse.

“Domestic violence transcends all socio-economic backgrounds and requires a comprehensive effort to help combat it effectively,” added Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This coordinated strategy will help us determine what works, what falls short, and where we need to concentrate our efforts to improve our domestic violence response.”

“In order to really and truly help victims of domestic violence going forward, we must take stock of what is working and not working for families in New Jersey,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “We need to make sure our laws are designed to maximize the support offered by the many domestic violence programs and services throughout our state.”

* 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-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.”

* A-2640, sponsored by Vainieri Huttle, would permit victims to secure restraining orders against perpetrators when no demonstrable personal relationship between the two parties exists, such as when the attacker is a stranger or a casual acquaintance of the victim.

“For too long, we have made it the victim’s responsibility to prove that he or she has the fundamental right to be safe,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This bill affirms our commitment to the notion that our residents ought to live free from any form of abuse, no matter who the attacker is.”

The bills now head to the Senate for consideration.