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(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly members Celeste M. Riley and Nelson T. Albano to bolster the rights of crime victims has been approved by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-2558) would enhance existing law by making several amendments and additions to the “Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights”, including the right to be treated with dignity and compassion by the criminal justice system, the right to be advised of case progress and final disposition and the right to make and in-person statement directly to the sentencing court.

“A trial can be a trying experience for crime victims and surviving relatives and friends,” said Riley (D-Salem/Cumberland/Gloucester). “Strengthening the rights rendered to these victims ensures they are afforded the best legal means to present their case, and are treated with respect and compassion as they seek justice for the crime committed against them.”

“The road to justice is not an easy one. Crime victims must often relive the damage committed against them during arduous criminal proceedings,” said Albano (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “We owe it to these victims to ensure they are protected during the trial process, and are given the resources to hold responsible those who caused them harm.”

The bill would ensure crime victims are entitled to the following:

  • protection from harassment or abuse by anyone involved in the criminal justice process
  • medical assistance reasonably related to the incident
  • be notified in a timely manner, if his or her presence in court is not needed, or if any scheduled court proceeding has been adjourned or cancelled
  • be compensated for loss sustained whenever possible
  • be able to confer with the prosecution to keep adequately informed about the case
  • submit a written statement prior to the prosecution deciding whether it will accept a negotiated plea or request by the defendant for pretrial intervention program

The bill would also allow survivors of the victim to wear a button with a picture of the victim during any judicial proceeding involving the accused (as long as the court determines it will not deprive the defendant of his or her sixth amendment right), and display a photograph or computer generated or video presentation of the victim when a statement is given.

The bill was released by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.