Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Benjie Wimberly and Shavonda Sumter to help protect witnesses of violent crimes continued advancing on Monday, gaining approval from the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.
“Being able to ensure the safety of a witness is often key to securing their testimony, and consequently, convicting violent criminals of heinous crimes,” said Johnson. “This bill will extend the relocation assistance currently afforded to victims to witnesses as well.”
The bill (A-1424), which was unanimously approved by the full Assembly last month, authorizes the Victims of Crime Compensation Office (VCCO) to pay for relocation expenses incurred by witnesses of violent crimes.
Under current law, the VCCO compensates victims of violent crimes for certain expenses incurred as a result of the crime committed against them, including relocation expenses.
“This is all about public safety,” said Wimberly (D-Passaic/Bergen). “We must make sure we protect witnesses.”
“If we don’t protect witnesses, we’ll make it tough to prosecute crimes,” said Sumter (D-Passaic/Bergen). “This bill is common sense.”
This bill authorizes the VCCO to also pay for the relocation expenses of witnesses of violent crimes, as well. The bill defines a witness as a person who witnessed the commission of an enumerated violent crime, such as murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, and sexual assault, and who has been threatened as a result of witnessing the crime.
Under current state regulations, the maximum amount the VCCO is permitted to pay for relocation costs is $2,500.
The bill now awaits further consideration from the Senate.