If Law Is Approved, Certain Domestic Violence Offenders Could Be Monitored Electronically

400-03928500d.jpgIf Gov. Chris Christie signs a pending Bill before the current legislative session ends this week, certain domestic violence offenders could find themselves wearing electronic monitoring devices as part of a pilot program which would be implemented in Ocean County. If the Governor fails to sign the legislation, however, supporters of the Bill could find themselves back at square one. (1)

The proposed law, titled “Lisa’s Law,” was named after a Toms River resident, Letizia Zindel, who allegedly was murdered in 2009 by her ex-fiance despite the fact that she had obtained a restraining order against him. The murder took place one day after the man was released from prison where he had been serving time for violating that restraining order. He later killed himself. (1)

Friends of Ms. Zindel and advocates of the pending legislation explained that as a social worker, Ms. Zindel had a lot of experience working with domestic violence victims and did everything she could legally to protect herself, but still it was not enough. This fact highlighted what they see as inadequacies in the State’s current laws pertaining to domestic violence. As a result, a Bill proposing that certain domestic violence offenders be subject to electronic monitoring similar to systems used in house arrest situations was drafted. This Bill won approval of the State Senate last month after having gained support of the State Assembly last summer. (2)

The Bill provides for a four-year pilot program to be established in Ocean County and also grants permission for the State to appropriate start-up costs for the program, estimated at $1 million. Under terms of the proposed Bill, court hearings would be required for defendants convicted of violating restraining orders to determine whether or not electronic monitoring devices would be effective in preventing such defendants from injuring their victims. The monitoring device would alert both police and the victim if the defendant comes within a predetermined distance of the victim. That distance, as well as the length of time the defendant would be required to wear the device, would be determined by the courts. (3)

Ordering defendants to wear monitoring devices is expected to serve two purposes: first, the device would alert a victim to seek safety since his or her abuser was within a certain range; and second, the device would alert the police that the victim and abuser were in close proximity to each other so that they could diffuse the situation and prevent further occurrences of abuse. (1)

Terms of the Bill stipulate that the offender would be responsible for providing the victim with either a receptor or a cell phone capable of receiving global positioning satellite (GPS) signals from the monitoring device. The offender would also be responsible for all costs and expenses related to the monitoring device. (3)

The Bill also seeks to prevent a defendant from removing or otherwise tampering with a device once its use is ordered by making such actions a third degree defense punishable by three to five years in prison and/or a fine of $15,000. (3)

At the end of the four-year pilot program, the State Attorney General’s Office would be required to report on the Bill’s effectiveness. That report would be used to determine whether or not the program should be rolled out statewide. (2)

Frequent reports of victims who have been injured or killed by abusers who have violated restraining orders indicate a need for laws to provide more protection to domestic violence victims and supporters hope this Bill will bridge that gap.

(1) http://nj1015.com/adovocates-to-lobby-for-the-signature-of-lisas-law-audio/
(2) http://www.njassemblyrepublicans.com/?p=12249
(3) https://www.govtrack.us/states/nj/bills/2012-2013/s1677