(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora, Carmelo G. Garcia, Annette Quijano and Gabriela Mosquera to establish an Internet registry to track domestic violence offenders was approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
“This type of registry would not only allow individuals to research potential partners to ensure they don’t have a history of domestic violence, but also help survivors of domestic violence know where their abuser is,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “This is on par with most sex offender registries and would help give families and victims the same peace of mind.”
The bill (A-2539) would require the Administrative Office of the Courts, in conjunction with the State Police and the Attorney General, to develop and maintain a system to make certain domestic violence registry information publicly available over the Internet.
“Essentially a few clicks of the mouse could help prevent someone from falling into an abusive relationship,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “This could prove an invaluable tool, especially given how hard it often is for victims to extricate themselves from this type of relationship.”
If approved, New Jersey would be the first state in the nation to have a state-run domestic violence registry.
“Much like a sex offender registry, the public and victims, especially, would be able to track domestic violence offenders in order to protect themselves and their families,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This would provide tremendous peace of mind while also aiding law enforcement.”
Under the bill, the public would be able to gain access through the Internet to all available information concerning an individual record, any part of, or the entire domestic violence Internet registry concerning all persons who have had domestic violence restraining orders entered against them for aggravated assault.
“Domestic violence damages so many families and can cause irreparable harm to children,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This is a cutting-edge approach to combating a pervasive problem where few other preventative solutions exist.”
In the case of a person convicted of homicide, sexual assault or aggravated assault involving domestic violence the public may, without limitation, obtain access to the domestic violence Internet registry to view an individual record, any part of, or the entire domestic violence Internet registry including:
- the defendant’s name and any aliases they may have used;
- any aggravated assault offense involving domestic violence for which the defendant was convicted;
- the date and location of disposition;
- a brief description of any such offense, a general description of the defendant’s modus operandi, if any;
- the defendant’s age, race, sex, date of birth, height, weight, hair, eye color and any distinguishing scars or tattoos;
- a photograph of the defendant and the date on which the photograph was entered into the registry;
- the make, model, color, year and license plate number of any vehicle operated by the defendant; and
- the street address, zip code, municipality and county in which the defendant resides.
The bill also requires the Attorney General to ensure that the domestic violence Internet registry contains (1) warnings that any person who uses the information to threaten, intimidate or harass another, or who misuses the information may be criminally prosecuted, and (2) an explanation of the registry’s limitations. The Attorney General is also required to strive to ensure that the information contained in the Internet registry is accurate, and that the registry is revised and updated as appropriate in a timely and efficient manner.
The bill provides that any information disclosed from the domestic violence Internet registry may be used in any manner by any person or by any public, governmental or private entity, organization or official, or any agent thereof, for any lawful purpose consistent with the enhancement of public safety.
A person who uses that information to commit a crime would be guilty of a crime of the third degree. A person who uses that information to commit a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense would be fined at least $500 but not more than $1,000, in addition to other applicable penalties.
Whenever there is reasonable cause to believe that any person or group is engaged in a pattern or practice of misuse of the information disclosed pursuant to the bill, the Attorney General, or any county or municipal prosecutor having jurisdiction, or any person aggrieved by the misuse of that information is authorized to bring a civil action in the appropriate court requesting preventive relief, including an application for a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order, or other order against any person responsible for the pattern or practice of misuse.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Women and Children Committee.