Thursday, October 18, 2012

Norcross False Incrimination Bill Passed By Senate

Please take note of the votes for/against in the final paragraph. This is very heartening to see.

In an effort to deter those who would abuse law enforcement resources, Senator Donald Norcross (D-Camden/Gloucester) has sponsored legislation to increase the penalties for perpetrators issuing false police reports. S1878 – which increases the penalties for any person who gives or knowingly causes to be given false information to a law enforcement officer in order to implicate another – was passed by the Senate today.

“Earlier this year, an individual in my district caused a manhunt by falsely accusing an acquaintance of sexual assault, identifying him as a serial rapist that had been plaguing Camden City,” said Senator Norcross. “While police officers were busy investigating this person’s lies, they were unable to pursue the true criminal.”

Under current law, such offenses are crimes of the fourth-degree and carry a sentence of up to 18-months in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Norcross’ bill upgrades false incrimination to a third-degree crime, or a second-degree crime if the victim was implicated in a crime of the first or second degree.

“This individual wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars in a city that is already strapped for resources,” added Senator Norcross. “A fourth-degree penalty is tantamount to a slap on the wrist when compared with the disruption and waste caused by a lie.”

A crime of the third degree is punishable by three to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $15,000, or both. A crime of the second degree is punishable by five to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $150,000, or both.

Camden City Police Chief Scott Thomson has expressed support of the legislation. Significant man power and six hours’ worth of potential leads were lost as the investigation was diverted to pursue this false lead.

“The fact is that the investigation was derailed by this individual – wasting time, effort and money,” said Chief Thomson.

The bill also upgrades the crime of issuing a false report from a disorderly person’s offense to a fourth degree crime. Those instances in which no actual person is named, but a fictitious report is made would be covered under this provision.

“These actions undermine law enforcement agencies, take attention away from actual victims, and put the community at risk,” said Senator Norcross. “Man-power and resources become diverted, not to mention the potential hysteria caused by public reaction to a fake crime.”

S1878 was passed by the Senate with a vote of 36 to 0. An identical bill in the Assembly is sponsored by Assemblyman Gilbert “Whip” Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester) and is awaiting consideration by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.