STATE OF NEW JERSEY
PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2016 SESSION
Senator† LORETTA WEINBERG
District 37 (Bergen)
Senator† CHRISTOPHER "KIP" BATEMAN
District 16 (Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset)
†††† Removes age restriction on testifying via closed circuit television in certain sex crimes cases.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
†††† Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel.
An Act concerning testimony taken via closed circuit television in trials for certain sex crimes and amending P.L.1985, c.126.
†††† Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
†††† 1.††† Section 1 of P.L.1985, c.126 (C.2A:84A-32.4) is amended to read as follows:
†††† 1.††† a.† In prosecutions for aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact, human trafficking involving sexual activity, child abuse, or in any action alleging an abused or neglected child under P.L.1974, c.119 (C.9:6-8.21 et seq.), the court may, on motion and after conducting a hearing in camera, order the taking of the testimony of a witness on closed circuit television at the trial, out of the view of the jury, defendant, or spectators upon making findings as provided in subsection b. of this section.
†††† b.††† An order under this section may be made only if the court finds that [the witness is 16 years of age or younger and that] there is a substantial likelihood that the witness would suffer severe emotional or mental distress if required to testify in open court.† The order shall be specific as to whether the witness will testify outside the presence of spectators, the defendant, the jury, or all of them and shall be based on specific findings relating to the impact of the presence of each.
†††† c.†††† A motion seeking closed circuit testimony under subsection a. of this section may be filed by:
†††† (1)†† The victim or witness or the victim's or witness's attorney, parent or legal guardian;
†††† (2)†† The prosecutor;
†††† (3)†† The defendant or the defendant's counsel; or
†††† (4)†† The trial judge on the judge's own motion.
†††† d.††† The defendant's counsel shall be present at the taking of testimony in camera.† If the defendant is not present, he and his attorney shall be able to confer privately with each other during the testimony by a separate audio system.
†††† e.†††† If testimony is taken on closed circuit television pursuant to the provisions of this act, a stenographic recording of that testimony shall also be required.† A typewritten transcript of that testimony shall be included in the record on appeal.† The closed circuit testimony itself shall not constitute part of the record on appeal except on motion for good cause shown.
(cf:† P.L.2013, c.51, s.16)
†††† 2.††† This act shall take effect immediately.
†††† This bill removes the restriction that a witness be 16 years of age or younger to testify via closed circuit television (CCTV) in trials for certain sex crimes.†
†††† Under current law, witnesses 16 years of age or younger may provide testimony via CCTV in prosecutions for aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact, human trafficking involving sexual activity, and child abuse.† The witness is required to show that there is a substantial likelihood that the he or she would suffer severe emotional or mental distress if required to testify in open court.† This bill removes the age restriction to allow witnesses of any age to testify via CCTV in these cases.†
†††† In Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990), the United States† Supreme Court held that the Confrontation Clause of the United States Constitution does not guarantee a defendant an absolute right to a face to face confrontation at trial and that the governmentís interest in protecting child victims of sexual assault from the trauma of testifying in the defendantís presence justifies a special procedure that can protect the victim and not impair the right of the defendant to confront all witnesses.† Craig was decided 25 years ago before the victimsí rights movement took hold in New Jersey and before the New Jersey Constitution was amended to give victims of crime the right to be treated with fairness, compassion, and respect by the criminal justice system.† Subsequently, numerous laws have been enacted in New Jersey advancing the rights of all victims of sex crimes and a wealth of knowledge has been developed concerning the dynamics of sexual offenses and their impact on crime victims.
†††† According to the sponsor, this bill represents a progressive understanding of the interaction between the practice within the criminal courts and impact of the court process on victims of crime.† It is the sponsorís understanding that witnesses would still be required to show that there will be a substantial likelihood of severe emotional distress if they are compelled to testify in open court with the defendant sitting just a few feet away.† The CCTV process with respect to children has worked effectively since the statute was enacted.† Expansion of this statute will ensure that all victims, regardless of age, are given the opportunity to be treated with compassion, fairness, and respect, as mandated by the New Jersey Constitution without the possible infringement of the rights of the accused.