TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner today welcomed Senate committee approval of her measure to require that any bail posted by a defendant charged with weapons offenses be paid fully in cash.
“When someone has a history of illegally using weapons, it shouldn’t be easy for that individual to post bail and get back out on the streets,” explained Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “Many of these individuals are involved in gangs, and between drug trafficking and other criminal activities, it is easy to put together the 10% needed to post a bond. The bar must be set much higher.”
Senator Turner’s bill, S-1885, would add weapons violations to the list of crimes that would prevent individuals using a bond to post bail when indicted on a violent crime charge such as murder, rape or aggravated assault. Instead, the indicted individual would be required to pay cash to post bail. Senator Turner noted that this bill was part of a package of bills she has sponsored to combat gang activity in New Jersey.
“In the past year, our communities have unfortunately seen what gangs can do when they get out of control and invade our neighborhoods,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “By getting serious about taking on the gangs, we can rid our streets of guns and end the revolving door of justice that allows gang members to return to the streets mere hours after arrest.”
Senator Turner said she hopes that the Senate will also consider several other pieces of legislation that would work to combat gang activity, especially a companion bill to S-1885 that would require those individuals who post bail to prove that they obtained the money for the bail through legal means.
“We need to do a better job of sending the message to our young people that guns and violence are only going to cost you down the road. We really need to attack the problem from every angle, using both the carrot and the stick to get the message across,” said Senator Turner
Senator Turner is also the sponsor of three bills geared to discourage individuals from illegally possessing, transferring or using guns. Bills S-752 and S-753, would make it a crime of the second degree to unlawfully possess an assault firearm or to transfer or sell a firearm to a minor.
A crime of the second degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment for a period of not less than five or more than 10 years, a fine of up to $150,000, or both. Raising the penalty to a crime of the second degree would increase the likelihood of violators going to prison as there is a presumption of nonincarceration for first time offenders found guilty of crimes of the third or fourth degree. There is no such presumption for those found guilty of crimes of the first or second degree.
Additionally, bill S-1720 would allocate $4 million to create a CeaseFire program in Camden, Newark and Trenton that would identify individuals at risk of committing a weapons crime and develop community outreach programs to encourage them to avoid guns and find more constructive outlets for resolving conflict.