TRENTON – Legislation sponsored Senate Assistant Majority Leader John A. Girgenti, which would upgrade the offense of assaulting a nurse or other healthcare profession to aggravated assault today was approved by the General Assembly.
“Existing New Jersey Statute enumerates the assault of individuals holding certain occupations that are inherently ‘high risk’ and have the potential for violence as aggravated assault,” said Senator Girgenti, Chairman of the Senate Law & Public Safety Committee, D-Passaic and Bergen. “However, an assault against a nurse, or other healthcare professional, while in the performance of his or her duties, only constitutes a simple assault.”
The bill (A-2309/S-911) would upgrade the offense for any individual(s) who assault a nurse or other healthcare professional, while in the performance of his or her official duties, from a simple assault to aggravated assault. If the nurse or healthcare professional suffers bodily injury as a result of the assault, it will be classified as a third degree crime; otherwise it will be a fourth degree crime. A crime of the third degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine up to $15,000, or both. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment for not more than 18 months, a fine up to $10,000, or both.
“Emergency rooms and psychiatric wards are not the only places where violence against nurses and healthcare workers occur; it occurs in obstetric, recovery, and surgical units as well,” said Senator Girgenti
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, over 400,000 nurses and healthcare professionals are victims of violent crimes in the workplace each year; and moreover, according to The American Nurses Association, 25% of nurses list physical assault as their top safety concern on the job.
Already, assaults on nurses are classified as a felony in the State of New York, and as of January other healthcare workers have been added to augment the existing law. Moreover, laws similar to this bill have already been enacted in Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, Nevada, and New Mexico.
“Our nurses and healthcare workers provide vital life saving services for us, and although we cannot return the favor, we can make sure that those who seek to harm them will be punished severely,” Girgenti added.
The Senate passed the measure in March by a vote of 37-0; the Assembly approved the bill by a vote of 77-1. However, due to technical amendments, the legislation must return to the Senate for concurrence.