SENATE BUDGET AND APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
ASSEMBLY SUBSTITUTE FOR
ASSEMBLY, No. 321
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
DATED: JUNE 24, 2013
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee reports favorably Assembly Bill No. 321 (AS).
The bill would establish a four-year pilot program in Ocean County for electronic monitoring of domestic violence offenders and notification to victims. The pilot program would be designated as “Lisa’s Law” in remembrance of Letizia Zindell of Toms River, a domestic violence victim murdered by her former fiancée.
The pilot program would apply to defendants charged with or convicted of contempt of a domestic violence order entered pursuant to the provisions of P.L.1981, c.426 (C.2C:25-1 et seq.) or P.L.1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-17 et seq.).
In making the determination whether to place the defendant on electronic monitoring, the court may hold a hearing to consider the likelihood that the defendant's participation in electronic monitoring would deter the defendant from injuring the victim. The court would consider, among other factors, the seriousness of harm that the defendant inflicted on the victim; the defendant’s previous history of domestic violence and other criminal acts, if any; whether the defendant has access to a weapon; and whether the defendant has a history of mental illness or substance abuse.
A defendant ordered by the court to be placed on electronic monitoring may be ordered to pay the costs and expenses related to electronic monitoring and victim notification or a portion of the costs and expenses, based on the defendant’s ability to pay.
In addition, the defendant would be assessed a monitoring fee of $250. The court could waive the fee in cases of extreme financial hardship.
The bill requires the Attorney General, in consultation with the Administrative Office of the Courts, to develop procedures to determine, investigate, and report on a 24-hour-per-day basis a defendant's noncompliance with the terms and conditions of the electronic monitoring program. All reports of noncompliance would be investigated by a law enforcement officer within a reasonable period of time.
Under the pilot program, when a defendant is convicted of contempt of a domestic violence order the court could, in addition to or in lieu of any other disposition:
(1) sentence the defendant to electronic monitoring with victim notification; or
(2) sentence the defendant to probation or a suspension of sentence and, as a condition of such probation or suspension, order electronic monitoring with victim notification.
The bill also provides that when a defendant charged with contempt of a domestic violence order is released from custody before trial on bail or personal recognizance, the court could order electronic monitoring as a condition of release.
It would be a crime of the third degree to tamper with, remove, or vandalize an electronic monitoring device.
Monitoring could be ordered only with the victim’s informed consent, which would include being provided with information concerning the victim's right to refuse to participate in electronic monitoring and the process for requesting the court to terminate the victim's participation after it has been ordered; the manner in which the electronic monitoring technology functions and the risks and limitations of that technology, and the extent to which the system will track and record the victim's location and movements; the boundaries imposed on the defendant during the electronic monitoring; the sanctions that the court may impose on the defendant for violating a court order; the procedure that the victim is to follow if the defendant violates an order or if electronic monitoring equipment fails; identification of support services available to assist the victim in developing a safety plan; and other information.
The bill provides that, from the implementation of the pilot program through the fifth year thereafter, any person found by the court in a final domestic violence hearing to have committed an act of domestic violence would be required to pay a civil penalty of $200. The court may waive the penalty in cases of extreme financial hardship.
In addition, the court would impose a civil penalty of $250 on any person convicted of a crime or offense involving domestic violence, or convicted of contempt of a domestic violence order, unless the person was previously assessed the monitoring fee.
The civil penalties imposed pursuant to the bill would expire at the end of the fifth year following implementation of the pilot program.
The bill establishes a “Domestic Violence Victim Notification Fund,” a dedicated, non-lapsing fund within the General Fund and administered by the Attorney General, which would be the depository of the costs and expenses imposed on the defendant for electronic monitoring and victim notification and the monitoring fee and civil penalties established by the bill, as well as any other monies that may be available to the fund through appropriation by the Legislature or any public or private source.
All moneys deposited in the “Domestic Violence Victim Notification Fund” would be used to defray the costs of electronic monitoring with victim notification pursuant to the pilot program.
The bill provides that no supplier of a product, system, or service used for electronic monitoring with victim notification in the pilot program would be liable, directly or indirectly, for damages arising from any injury or death associated with the use of the product, system or service unless, and only to the extent that, such action is based on a claim that the injury or death was proximately caused by a manufacturing defect in the product or system.
The bill amends the “Local Public Contracts Law” to provide that services and equipment necessary for the implementation of the pilot program could be negotiated and awarded by the governing body without public advertising for bids and bidding and be awarded by resolution of the governing body.
The bill appropriates $1 million from the General Fund to the “Domestic Violence Victim Notification Fund.” Following the expiration of the four-year pilot program, any unexpended funds would be returned to the General Fund.
Under the bill, on the first day of the sixth month following the effective date, the Attorney General would report to the Governor and the Legislature as to the availability of appropriate technology to facilitate the provisions of the pilot program. If the Attorney General determines that appropriate technology is not available, the Attorney General, every six months thereafter, would report to the Governor and the Legislature as to the availability of appropriate technology until such time as the Attorney General deems it available. When appropriate technology is available the Attorney General would implement the pilot program.
The bill provides that not later than one year following the implementation of the pilot program and annually thereafter for a total of four years, the Attorney General would submit to the Governor and the Legislature a report containing an evaluation of the pilot program with a recommendation as to whether it should be continued as a Statewide program.
As reported, this bill is identical to the Senate Bill No. 2910, as also reported by the committee.
According to the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), due to the discretionary nature of the pilot program, the Judiciary is unable to estimate the number of defendants who would be participating in the electronic monitoring program, the number of defendants who would be subject to the associated costs, fines and penalties, or the number of defendants whose fees would be waived. As a result, the Judiciary is unable to estimate the fiscal impact of the proposed legislation. The Office of Legislative Services (OLS) notes that the Office of the Attorney General may incur additional indeterminate costs in developing the procedures for monitoring and reporting a defendant's noncompliance with the electronic monitoring program as well as for investigating reports of noncompliance.