TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher which would impose minimum mandatory sentences and the forfeiture of pensions and retirement benefits for public officials convicted of a crime that involves their public office was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee today.
“A public office is won based on a contract of trust with the electorate, and when that trust is broken, the terms of the contract should be considered null and void,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “In New Jersey today, corruption seems to be running rampant over positive public service, as allegations of corruption against local, county and State officials have become an everyday occurrence. It’s obvious that we need much stronger deterrents to keep politicians focused on public service, as opposed to self service.”
The bill, S-2439, would establish mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment and the forfeiture of pension and retirement benefits for public officials convicted of criminal charges stemming from their public office. Under the bill, if an official is convicted of a crime of the fourth degree, the imposed sentence would be one year of imprisonment; for a crime of the third degree, the sentence would be two years; for a crime of the second degree, the sentence would be five years; and for a crime of the first degree, which would include high crimes such as murder, certain sexual assaults and money laundering involving large sums of money, the minimum sentence would be ten years of imprisonment.
“We must have penalties that fit the crime, and in cases where public officials defraud the voters that elected them to their positions, and flaunt the public trust, we must penalize them accordingly,” said Senator Karcher. “A corrupt public official should not be allowed to profit off of the system they abused while in office during their retirement years, and corrupt officials should not be allowed to get by with a slap on the wrist for major criminal activity. We need laws in place to dissuade government officials from abusing their offices.”
The Senator’s bill was amended in committee to clarify the legislative intent of the bill and to make technical changes to the language. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.