ASSEMBLY, No. 2634

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

220th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED FEBRUARY 14, 2022

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman  MICHELE MATSIKOUDIS

District 21 (Morris, Somerset and Union)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Permits victims and witnesses of human trafficking to testify in criminal proceedings via closed circuit television; permits judge to make motion to seek closed circuit testimony.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning certain victims and witnesses and amending P.L.1985, c.126.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    Section 1 of P.L.1985, c.126 (C.2A:84A-32.4) is amended to read as follows:

     1.    a.  (1)  In prosecutions for aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact, human trafficking [involving sexual activity], a crime involving domestic violence as defined in section 3 of P.L.1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-19), endangering the welfare of a child pursuant to N.J.S.2C:24-4, abuse or neglect of a child pursuant to R.S.9:6-3, or in any action alleging an abused or neglected child under P.L.1974, c.119 (C.9:6-8.21 et seq.), the court may, on motion and after conducting a hearing in camera, order the taking of the testimony of a victim or witness on closed circuit television at the trial, out of the view of the jury, defendant, or spectators upon making findings as provided in subsection b. of this section.

     (2)   In granting such an order, the court shall assure that:

     (a)   the victim or witness will testify under oath;

     (b)   the victim or witness will submit to cross-examination by the defendant's attorney; and

     (c)   the defendant, jury, and judge will be permitted to observe the demeanor of the victim or witness when making testimonial statements using closed circuit television.

     b.    An order under this section may be made only if the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that there is a substantial likelihood that the victim or witness would suffer severe emotional or mental distress if required to testify in the presence of spectators, the defendant, the jury, or all of them.  The order shall be specific as to whether the victim or witness will testify outside the presence of spectators, the defendant, the jury, or all of them and shall be based on specific findings relating to the impact of the presence of each.

     c.     A motion seeking closed circuit testimony under subsection a. of this section may be filed by:

     (1)   The victim or witness or, in the case of a victim or witness who is under the age of 18, the victim's or witness's attorney, parent or legal guardian;

     (2)   The prosecutor; [or]

     (3)   The defendant or the defendant's counsel; or

     (4)   The trial judge on the judge's own motion.

     d.    The defendant's counsel shall be present in the same room as the victim or witness at the taking of testimony on closed circuit itelevision.  The defendant and the defendant's attorney shall be able to confer privately with each other during the testimony by a separate audio system.

     e.     If testimony is taken on closed circuit television pursuant to the provisions of this section, the video portion of the testimony shall not be recorded and shall not constitute part of the record on appeal. All audio transmissions, except private conversations between the defendant and the defendant's attorney, shall be recorded and thereafter shall be subject to the following provisions:

     (1)   If the victim or witness is 18 years of age or older at the time of the court proceedings, any recording of the audio portion of the closed circuit testimony shall constitute part of the record on appeal, unless the court orders otherwise for good cause shown upon motion of the parties.

     (2)   If the victim or witness is under the age of 18 at the time of the court proceedings, any recording of the audio portion of the closed circuit testimony shall not constitute part of the record on appeal and shall be deemed confidential and not available to the public, unless the court orders otherwise for good cause shown upon motion of the parties. In making the determination regarding the availability of the audio portion of the testimony, the court shall consider potential trauma or stigma to the victim or witness.  A transcript of the audio portion of the closed circuit testimony shall constitute part of the record on appeal, subject to any personal identification safeguards contained in section 1 of P.L.1989, c.336 (C.2A:82-46).

     f.     For purposes of this section, "closed circuit television" means any closed-circuit, videoconferencing or other audio-visual electronic technology capable of producing a simultaneous, one-way broadcast from a victim or witness to a defendant in a separate physical location. The technology shall allow for the live observation of the victim or witness by the defendant, jury, and judge during the course of testimony or cross-examination, while excluding a victim or witness from directly hearing or viewing the defendant during the proceedings.

(cf: P.L.2017, c.205, s.1)

 

     2.    This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill would permit all victims and witnesses of human trafficking to testify in criminal proceedings via closed circuit television.  Under current law, victims and witnesses of human trafficking involving sexual activity, among others, are permitted to testify via closed circuit television.  Also under current law, the victim or witness, the prosecutor, or the defendant or their counsel may make a motion seeking closed circuit testimony.  The bill would also permit a trial judge to make a motion.