TRENTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved a bill sponsored by Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) that would toughen the penalties for anyone found guilty of corrupting or influencing a jury presiding over serious criminal cases.
“A trial by jury is one of the bedrocks of our democracy,” said Sen. Codey. “Victims, especially those of a serious crime, deserve to know that we’re doing everything in our power to protect the integrity of the judicial system. Anyone convicted of threatening a juror deserves to have the book thrown at them.”
Bill S2938 would upgrade the crime of tampering with a jury to a first degree offense if an individual uses threat or force against an official involved in the proceedings of crimes included in the “No Early Release Act.” Under a first degree crime, the upgraded penalty would carry a term of imprisonment of 10-20 years and a fine of up to $200,000. This bill would change the penalties for corrupting or influencing a jury to be consistent with the legislature’s recent penalty upgrades for the crime of tampering with witnesses or informants.
The No Early Release Act includes crimes of a more serious nature, including: murder; aggravated manslaughter or manslaughter; vehicular homicide; aggravated assault; disarming a law enforcement officer; kidnapping; aggravated sexual assault; sexual assault; robbery; carjacking; aggravated arson; burglary; extortion; strict liability for drug induced deaths; terrorism; producing or possessing chemical weapons, biological agents or nuclear or radiological devices; and racketeering when it is a crime of the first degree.
Corrupting or influencing a jury would continue to be a crime of the second degree if the defendant uses force or the threat of force and the conduct occurs in connection with a crime that is not listed in the No Early Release Act. A crime of the second degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment of 5-10 years and a fine of up to $150,000. Otherwise, corrupting or influencing a jury would remain a crime of the third degree without a presumption of non-imprisonment. A crime of the third degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment of 3-5 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
The bill, which has already passed the Assembly, now heads to the full Senate for final legislative approval. The law would go into effect immediately upon being signed into law.
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