Judiciary

ASSEMBLY APPROVES MUÑOZ-DANCER BILL MAKING ANIMAL FIGHTING A CRIME

Legislation Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz and Assemblyman Ron Dancer sponsor that revises and expands the state’s animal cruelty laws to criminalize animal fighting today received General Assembly approval. The bill increases the level of crime for certain offenses, establishes new criminal and civil offenses and increases criminal and civil penalties. It now goes to the governor for his consideration.

Specifically, the measure, A-3037/2547/3596/2422/S-736, criminalizes animal fighting and leading an animal fighting network. The latter will be considered “racketeering activity” under the state’s anti-racketeering law.

“Training, promoting and selling animals for the purpose of fighting for amusement or financial gain is despicable and extremely inhumane,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “The injuries inflicted on these poor animals, especially dogs, are very severe, if not fatal. Those that lose the fight but survive are either tortured to death by their owners or left with debilitating injuries.

“Animal fighting, in particular, dog fighting is a secret, underground activity, but it happens everywhere in towns all over New Jersey,” she continued. “It’s a highly profitable, sadistic blood sport and anyone who operates, promotes or in any way participates in this activity should be justly punished.”

“Animals used in such fights are kept in horrific conditions. They are starved, drugged and beaten to make them aggressive. No animal deserves to be abused or killed for so called ‘entertainment,’” said Dancer, R-Ocean, Burlington, Middlesex and Monmouth. “This blood sport is a brutal, violent practice that also breeds other serious crimes such as gambling, drug dealing, weapons offenses and money laundering. Increased fines and penalties will help protect these defenseless animals and punish their abusers.”Under the bill, assets or property used in animal fighting activities will be seized or forfeited.

MUÑOZ BILL TO PROTECT SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS WINS SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVAL

Legislation Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz sponsors that provides sexual assault victims with protection against their offenders won approval from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Monday. The bill was unanimously approved by the Assembly in February.The “Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015” (A-4078/S-2686), allow victims to obtain protection without filing criminal charges.

“Sexual assault is physically and psychologically devastating; and victims are often embarrassed or feel they are in some way to blame for the attack,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “As a result, only a small percentage of victims file criminal charges. Unless they report the crime, they cannot obtain a restraining order. This leaves their attacker free to harass or assault them again.”

The bill allows the court to issue a temporary protective order regardless of whether the alleged victim has filed criminal charges. It prohibits the alleged offender from having any contact or communication, including personal, written, telephone or via electronic device, with victims and their family members, employers, and employees.

Under current law, restraining orders are predominately used for victims of domestic violence.

In addition, the measure prohibits stalking, following or harassing, including cyber-harassing, the alleged victim.

ASSEMBLY ADVANCES MUÑOZ BILL TO PROTECT SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS

Legislation Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz sponsors that provides sexual assault victims with protection against their offenders today won General Assembly approval.

The “Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015” (A-4078), allows victims to obtain protection without filing criminal charges.

“Sexual assault is physically and psychologically devastating; and victims too often are embarrassed or feel they are in some way to blame for the attack,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “As a result, only a very small percentage of victims file criminal charges. Unless they report the crime, they cannot obtain a restraining order. This leaves their attacker free to harass or assault them again.”

The bill allows the court to issue a temporary protective order regardless of whether the alleged victim has filed criminal charges. It prohibits the alleged offender from having any contact or communication, including personal, written, telephone or via electronic device, with victims and their family members, employers, and employees.

Under current law, restraining orders are predominately used for victims of domestic violence.

In addition, the measure prohibits stalking, following or harassing, including cyber-harassing, the alleged victim.

ASSEMBLY ADVANCES MUÑOZ BILL TO PROTECT STALKING VICTIMS

To protect stalking victims, repeat offenders face increased jail time under legislation Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz sponsors. The bill, A-3841, today received General Assembly approval.

“Restraining orders often aren’t enough of a deterrent for stalkers. Regardless of their motivation, the goal is the same – to instill constant fear in their victims,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “They are also at an increased risk of being attacked or killed. In addition to the threat of physical harm, the psychological trauma is devastating. Repeat offenders continue to harass their victim with terrifying consequences. These criminals will no longer receive a slap on the wrist. Instead they’re going to face several years in prison.”

The measure increases prison time and fines for persons convicted of subsequent stalking offenses. Under current law, repeat offenders face up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. Under Muñoz’ bill, such an offense is upgraded from a fourth degree crime to a third degree which carries a 3 to 5-year prison term and a fine up to $15,000.

MUÑOZ BILL TO PROTECT STALKING VICTIMS ADVANCES

To protect victims of stalking from repeat offenders, Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz sponsors legislation authorizing the courts to order electronic monitoring of such offenders. The bill, A-3841, won approval today from the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

“Stalkers can have a range of motivations, but their goal is the same – to instill constant fear in their victims,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “Stalking puts victims at an increased risk of being attacked or killed. Regardless of physical harm, the psychological trauma they inflict on their victims is devastating. Restraining orders often aren’t enough of a deterrent. Repeat offenders continue to harass their victim with terrifying consequences. Monitoring stalkers can help give victims better protection.”

The measure allows the courts to order the electronic monitoring of an individual who has been convicted of a second offense of stalking against the same victim. It also requires the Administrative Office of the Courts, state Attorney General, State Police and county and municipal law enforcement agencies to share criminal incident information with each other and the monitoring equipment program contractor.

ASSEMBLY APPROVES MUÑOZ BILL ADDRESSING HEROIN EPIDEMIC

Legislation Deputy Republican Leader Nancy Muñoz sponsors to combat New Jersey’s heroin crisis won approval Thursday from the General Assembly. The bill, A-783/A-2831, cleared the Assembly Appropriations Committee last month and the Assembly Judiciary Committee in June.

“We need to give law enforcement officials the tools they need to prosecute criminals who are spreading heroin in our local communities,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “This is a frightening epidemic that crosses racial, geographic and socioeconomic lines. Current law allows individuals arrested for heroin offenses to avoid the most serious drug charges. That, along with convenience and low cost, is feeding this crisis. We need to update our statutes to reflect reality. It’s time to make the punishment fit the crime.”

The measure implements a recommendation from the July 2013 report from the State Commission on Investigation titled “Scenes from an Epidemic: A Report on the SCI’s Investigation of Prescription Pill and Heroin Abuse.” It increases the penalties for manufacturing, distributing, and dispensing heroin by reducing the amount of heroin necessary to be charged for first, second and third-degree offenses.

Since the seriousness of drug crimes is currently measured by the amount or weight of the controlled dangerous substance, the distribution of heroin and cocaine carry the same penalty. Heroin, however, provides more pharmacological effect from a given weight than does cocaine. As a result, the amounts of heroin consumed by an average user and carried by an average dealer are far lower than those involving cocaine, therefore, those who manufacture or distribute heroin are treated more leniently than those who distribute cocaine.

ASSEMBLY PANEL ADVANCES MUÑOZ BILL TO PROTECT ADOPTIVE PARENTS AND CHILDREN

Legislation Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz sponsors that gives adoptive parents stalking and restraining order protections from the individual(s) who gave up their parental rights to the adopted child today won approval from the Assembly Human Services Committee.

The bill, A-882, amends the state’s current stalking law making it applicable to adoptive children and their former parent(s). It permits an adoptive parent to obtain a temporary restraining order against the person whose parental rights to the child have been terminated if the former parent/guardian has contacted or attempts to contact the child against the adoptive parent’s directions. The order can be made permanent if the person is convicted of stalking.“When a biological parent attempts to contact a child they gave up for adoption, it can undermine the relationship between the child and his or her adoptive parents,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “These children have already been through very difficult times. Initiating unwanted contact often causes more stress for the children as well as their adoptive parents who risk being targets of harassment and stalking. Surprisingly, the law offers them little protection. Adoptive families need to have the same level of protection that’s available in domestic violence cases.”

Under the measure, unwarranted contact would be a third or fourth degree crime, depending on the circumstances associated with stalking. A third degree crime calls for a three to five year prison term, a fine of up to $15,000 or both; a fourth degree crime carries an 18-month prison term, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

MUÑOZ BILL THAT ADDRESSES HEROIN EPIDEMIC CONTINUES TO ADVANCE

Legislation Deputy Republican Leader Nancy Muñoz sponsors to combat New Jersey’s heroin crisis continues to advance. The measure won approval today from the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee in June.

The bill, A-783/A-2831, implements a recommendation from the July 2013 report from the State Commission on Investigation titled “Scenes from an Epidemic: A Report on the SCI’s Investigation of Prescription Pill and Heroin Abuse.” It increases the penalties for manufacturing, distributing, and dispensing heroin by reducing the amount of heroin necessary to be charged for first, second and third-degree offenses.“It’s a frightening epidemic that crosses racial, geographic and socioeconomic lines,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “We need to update our statutes to reflect reality. Current law allows individuals arrested for heroin offenses to avoid the most serious drug charges. That, along with convenience and low cost, is feeding this crisis. It’s time to make the punishment fit the crime.”

Since the seriousness of drug crimes is currently measured by the amount or weight of the controlled dangerous substance, the distribution of heroin and cocaine carry the same penalty. Heroin, however, provides more pharmacological effect from a given weight than does cocaine. As a result, the amounts of heroin consumed by an average user and carried by an average dealer are far lower than those involving cocaine, therefore, those who manufacture or distribute heroin are treated more leniently than those who distribute cocaine.

Under Muñoz’ bill, the threshold for a first-degree offense would be lowered from five ounces to 2.5 ounces or more of heroin. It carries a prison term of 10 to 20 years, up to a $500,000 fine, or both. In addition, a mandatory minimum term may be imposed, fixed at, or between, one-third and one-half of the sentence imposed with no eligibility for parole.

For a second-degree offense the threshold quantity would be reduced to 0.17 ounces or more, but less than 2.5 ounces of heroin. It is punishable by imprisonment for five to 10 years, up to a $150,000 fine, or both.

A third-degree offense would require a threshold quantity of less than 0.17 ounces and is punishable by three to five years in prison, up to a $75,000 fine, or both.

GOVERNOR’S STATEMENT UPON SIGNING ASSEMBLY BILL NO. 1676

Governor Chris Christie released the following statement upon signing of Assembly Bill 1676, bi-partisan legislation sponsored by Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz, R-Union. A-1676 provides that crime victims do not have to pay fees to obtain records relating to the crime; and that requests for such records are not public information.

“Assembly Bill No. 1676 (First Reprint), which I have signed today, provides that crime victims shall not be charged fees to obtain copies of the victims’ own records to which the victim is entitled to access under the Open Public Records Act. Those records include, but are not limited to, any law enforcement agency report, domestic violence offense report, and any temporary or permanent restraining order. The bill also provides that such record requests are not themselves subject to disclosure under the Open Public Records Act.

This bill continues New Jersey’s strong policy of assisting victims of crimes by not charging them fees for access to their own records. Moreover, as the Superior Court of New Jersey has already recognized, disclosure of any person’s Open Public Records Act requests implicates privacy, confidentiality, and competitive advantage concerns. Because   disclosure of crime victims’ record requests raises the additional concern of their physical safety, the bill makes explicit for crime victims the previously established general policy that record requests made under the Open Public Records Act are not subject to disclosure.”

MUÑOZ BILL THAT ADDRESSES HEROIN CRISIS ADVANCES

The Assembly Judiciary Committee has unanimously passed legislation sponsored by Deputy Republican Leader Nancy Muñoz to combat the heroin epidemic facing New Jersey.

The bill, A-783/A-2831, implements a recommendation from the July 2013 report from the State Commission on Investigation titled “Scenes from an Epidemic: A Report on the SCI’s Investigation of Prescription Pill and Heroin Abuse.” It increases the penalties for manufacturing, distributing, and dispensing heroin by reducing the amount of heroin necessary to be charged for first, second and third-degree offenses.“It’s a frightening epidemic that crosses racial, geographic and socioeconomic lines,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “We need to give law enforcement officials the tools they need to prosecute criminals who are spreading heroin in our local communities.”

A report released in April by the Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use by New Jersey’s Youth and Young Adults identified heroin abuse as “the number one health care crisis” confronting the state.

“Heroin is a cheaper but more potent alternative that drug dealers are using to meet the growing demand for opiates and avoid the more serious criminal penalties,” said Muñoz. “If we are going rid our communities of heroin abuse, it’s time we make the punishment fit the crime.”

Current law measures the seriousness of the crime by the weight of the controlled substances involved. Equivalent weights or quantities of heroin and cocaine are treated identically under the law, which ignores the difference between how those two drugs are used. The amounts of heroin consumed by an average user and carried by an average dealer are far lower than those involving cocaine.

Under the bill, the threshold for a first-degree offense would be lowered from five ounces to 2.5 ounces or more of heroin. It carries a prison term of 10 to 20 years, up to a $500,000 fine, or both. In addition, a mandatory minimum term may be imposed, fixed at, or between, one-third and one-half of the sentence imposed with no eligibility for parole.

For a second-degree offense the threshold quantity would be reduced to 0.17 ounces or more, but less than 2.5 ounces of heroin. It is punishable by imprisonment for five to 10 years, up to a $150,000 fine, or both.

A third-degree offense would require a threshold quantity of less than 0.17 ounces and is punishable by three to five years in prison, up to a $75,000 fine, or both.