ASSEMBLY, No. 1840

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

212th LEGISLATURE

 

PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2006 SESSION

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman LINDA R. GREENSTEIN

District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)

Assemblyman JOHN F. MCKEON

District 27 (Essex)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Eliminates the statute of limitations for certain environmental crimes.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel

  


An Act concerning the statute of limitations for environmental crimes and amending N.J.S.2C:1-6.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.  N.J.S.2C:1-6 is amended to read as follows

     2C:1-6.  Time Limitations. a.  (1)  A prosecution for any offense set forth in N.J.S.2C:11-3, N.J.S.2C:11-4, N.J.S.2C:14-2 or sections 1 through 5 of P.L.2002, c.26 (C.2C:38-1 through C.2C:38-5)  may be commenced at any time.

     (2) A prosecution for any offense set forth in paragraph (2) of subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:17-2, section 9 of P.L.1970, c.39 (C.13:1E-9), section 20 of P.L.1989, c.34 (C.13:1E-48.20), section 19 of P.L.1954, c.212 (C.26:2C-19), section 10 of P.L.1984, c.173 (C.34:5A-41), or section 10 of P.L.1977, c.74 (C.58:10A-10) may be commenced at any time.

     b.  Except as otherwise provided in this section, prosecutions for other offenses are subject to the following periods of limitations:

     (1)  A prosecution for a crime must be commenced within five years after it is committed;

     (2)  A prosecution for a disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense must be commenced within one year after it is committed;

     (3)  A prosecution for any offense set forth in N.J.S.2C:27-2, N.J.S.2C:27-4, N.J.S.2C:27-6, N.J.S.2C:27-7, N.J.S.2C:29-4, N.J.S.2C:30-2, N.J.S.2C:30-3, or any attempt or conspiracy to commit such an offense, must be commenced within seven years after the commission of the offense;

     (4)  A prosecution for an offense set forth in N.J.S.2C:14-3 or N.J.S.2C:24-4, when the victim at the time of the offense is below the age of 18 years, must be commenced within five years of the victim's attaining the age of 18 or within two years of the discovery of the offense by the victim, whichever is later;

     (5)  [A prosecution for any offense set forth in paragraph (2) of subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:17-2, section 9 of P.L.1970, c.39 (C.13:1E-9), section 20 of P.L.1989, c.34 (C.13:1E-48.20), section 19 of P.L.1954, c.212 (C.26:2C-19), section 10 of P.L.1984, c.173 (C.34:5A-41), or section 10 of P.L.1977, c.74 (C.58:10A-10) must be commenced within 10 years after the date of discovery of the offense by a local law enforcement agency, a county prosecutor, or the Department of Environmental Protection either directly by any of those entities or indirectly by notice given to any of those entities] Deleted by amendment, P.L.     ,c.     (C.     )(now pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     c.  An offense is committed either when every element occurs or, if a legislative purpose to prohibit a continuing course of conduct plainly appears, at the time when the course of conduct or the defendant's complicity therein is terminated.  Time starts to run on the day after the offense is committed, except that when the prosecution is supported by physical evidence that identifies the actor by means of DNA testing or fingerprint analysis, time does not start to run until the State is in possession of both the physical evidence and the DNA or fingerprint evidence necessary to establish the identification of the actor by means of comparison to the physical evidence.

     d.  A prosecution is commenced for a crime when an indictment is found and for a nonindictable offense when a warrant or other process is issued, provided that such warrant or process is executed without unreasonable delay. Nothing contained in this section, however, shall be deemed to prohibit the downgrading of an offense at any time if the prosecution of the greater offense was commenced within the statute of limitations applicable to the greater offense.

     e.  The period of limitation does not run during any time when a prosecution against the accused for the same conduct is pending in this State.

     f.  The limitations in this section shall not apply to any person fleeing from justice.

     g.  Except as otherwise provided in this code, no civil action shall be brought pursuant to this code more than five years after such action accrues.

(cf: P.L.2002, c.26, s.7)

 

     2.  This act shall take effect immediately and shall apply to any offense for which the time limitation for bringing a prosecution has not expired.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill would eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal offenses arising from violations of environmental crimes and certain environmental laws.

     This bill would apply to violations of  paragraph (2) of subsection a. of  N.S.2C:17-2 (hazardous discharge provision of the crime of  causing or risking widespread injury or damage), the "Solid Waste Management Act," P.L.1970, c.39 (C.13:1E-1 et seq.), the "Air Pollution Control Act (1954)," P.L.1954, c.212 (C.26:2C-1 et seq.) and "Water Pollution Control Act," P.L.1977, c.74 (C.58:10A-1 et seq.), which includes violations for making false or misleading  statements on a report filed with the Department of Enviromental Protection (DEP).

     Under current law, the statute of limitations for these environmental crimes must be commenced within ten years after the date of discovery of the offense by a local law enforcement agency, a county prosecutor, or the Department of Environmental Protection either directly by any of those entities or indirectly by notice given to any of those entities.

     Because of the potential long-term impact of criminal violations of environmental laws, there is often a need to prosecute these violations even many years after an offense has been committed or after it has been discovered. Environmental crimes are unique and pose a great threat to society as a whole because it may be difficult to determine who is responsible.  More importantly, the damage that occurs is often not perceptible until many years after the violation has discovered.

     An example of the inadequacy of a ten year statute of limitation is evident in the case of the former W.R. Grace site in Hamilton where recent findings have demonstrated that an assertive approach to monitoring environmental site cleanups is necessary.  The inefficient disposal of environmental hazardous products at the former W.R. Grace site has resulted  in the possible asbestos contamination of an area which was deemed  as  "no cleanup or testing required" by environmental standards in 1994.  More than ten years after the W.R. Grace vermiculite processing plant closed the former employees of that company and the residents of that area are still feeling the effects.

     For forty years, this plant processed asbestos contaminated vermiculite ore shipped from Libby, Montana which was later found to be contaminated with tremolite asbestos, one of the most dangerous forms of asbestos.  More than ten years after the plant closed, the State discovered that plant employees and nearby residents may have been at risk for asbestos exposure.  As of this date, the State is still investigating the contamination caused by the plant that closed down in 1994.

     As the W.R. Grace case has demonstrated, a ten year statute of limitations for environmental crimes is a constraint on the State's obligation to its citizens to prosecute these crimes. It is the sponsor's intent to protect the citizens of this State by eliminating the statute of limitations for these crimes. This bill is intended to provide adequate notice to all of the environmental business entities that the State will prosecute.  Such prosecutions will no longer be hindered by the small window of opportunity for prosecution.