Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Daniel R. Benson, Thomas P. Giblin and Gabriela Mosquera to help protect victims of domestic violence by allowing courts to order electronic monitoring of certain domestic violence offenders was approved by a Senate panel on Thursday.
The bill, designated as "Lisa's Law," would establish a four-year pilot program in Ocean County for electronic monitoring of certain domestic violence offenders and notification to the victim when that offender is within a certain proximity. As part of the bill, the state Attorney General would be required to submit a report to the governor and the Legislature at the end of each year of the pilot program, evaluating the program and recommending whether it should be continued statewide.
The bill (A-321) is named after Letizia Zindell of Toms River who was murdered in 2009 by her former fiancé, Frank Frisco who later killed himself. The murder occurred a day after he was released from jail for violating a restraining order that Zindell had filed against him.
"Letizia Zindell's killer violated the restraining order she filed against him repeatedly up until the day he took her life," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "Her tragic death shows more must be done to protect victims of domestic abuse."
"Letizia Zindell tried to protect herself, but sadly, the restraining order she filed was not enough to stop her murderer," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "Like Letizia, there are countless others who have perished at the hands of their abusers. We must do more."
"Victims who have filed restraining orders against their abusers often need an additional layer of protection, and this program can help us save victims of abuse" said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). "It's the right thing to do to further protect these victims."
"It is difficult for many women to leave an abusive relationship out of fear of retaliation," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "This can help encourage more women to escape these dangerous situations by giving them additional protection against abusive partners."
The pilot program would apply to defendants charged with or convicted of contempt of a domestic violence order. In determining whether to place a defendant on electronic monitoring, the court may hold a hearing to consider the likelihood that the defendant's participation in such monitoring would deter the defendant from injuring the victim.
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 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:
- sentence the defendant to electronic monitoring with victim notification; or
- 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 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 appropriates $1 million from the general fund to the "Domestic Violence Victim Notification Fund." At the end of the pilot, any unused funds would go back to the general fund.
The bill was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The full Assembly unanimously approved the measure in June and it now awaits final legislative consideration by the full Senate.