Assembly Democratic Legislation to Extend Victim Notification to Include Witnesses of the Crime Cleared Legislative Panel
By Mel Fabrikant Monday, February 11, 2013, 01:38 PM EST
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John J. Burzichelli, Timothy J. Eustace, Nelson T. Albano, and Peter J. Barnes, III to require crime witness to be notified of a defendant’s release was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
“The witness of the crime has just as much right to be notified of changes in the defendant’s status as the victim of the crime does,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem). “Especially in the case of violent crimes or domestic violence, both the victim and the witness are at risk.”
“This legislation would expand current law to help protect those who have the courage to stand up in the name justice,” said Eustace (D-Bergen, Passaic). “In these cases, witnesses are just as vulnerable as the victim of the crime. They should be alerted when a change in the case occurs.”
The bill (A-3692) would amend certain statutory sections to require the county Office of Victim and Witness Advocacy or prosecutor, in addition to notifying the victim, to also notify any witness to the crime who has requested such notification. Under current law, only crime victims or their relatives must be notified.
“If a witness chooses to be notified by this process, then there may be an existing threat of intimidation,” said Albano. (Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland). “Alerting them will give them opportunity to seek more information and take the necessary steps to protect themselves if needed.”
“A citizen who participates in or made to participate in a criminal proceeding should be told of a violent offender’s release,” said Barnes. “This would be a small legislative action that would extend the opportunity for more New Jerseyans to be kept informed for their safety.”
The legislation now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.