TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg that would expand the rights of crime victims and witnesses by allowing the court to permit a non-victim to make a statement at sentencing if the court finds the non-victim has been in a close personal relationship with the victim or, in the case of homicide, the survivor of the victim, was approved by the Senate today.
“There are many people effected by a crime beyond the identifiable victim,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “This bill will expand the rights of victims by allowing those individuals who, in the case of a homicide, were survivors of the victim or in other crimes, were close to the victim, to have a voice in court hearings that determine sentencing or whether an offender should be relieved from registering as a sex offender. These voices add context to the proceedings. The court needs to be as well-informed as possible before its delivers a sentence or ruling and this bill accomplishes that.”
The bill, S-1202, would allow crime victims and witnesses to be present and give testimony at certain judicial proceedings, including the right to be present and give testimony to the court if the court determines that the victim’s or witness’s testimony is necessary to resolve an issue of material fact at a hearing. That would include reviewing a request by a sex offender to be relieved of the registration requirements, to consider the risk of re-offense of a sex offender or to consider the commitment of a person who was acquitted by reason of insanity.
Most courts in New Jersey currently allow non-victims to present victim impact statements, but some courts have denied these statements claiming they do not fall within the definition of a victim. Under this bill, the practice would be consistent throughout the courts and reinforce the intent behind allowing victim impact statements.
The bill was approved by a vote of 40-0.