Assemblyman RONALD S. DANCER
District 12 (Burlington, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean)
Establishes that pecuniary loss from riot in excess of $2,000 constitutes crime of third degree; mandates that riot participants be held responsible to reimburse property owners for damages.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act concerning rioting and amending N.J.S.2C:33-1.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. N.J.S.2C:33-1 is amended to read as follows:
2C:33-1. Riot; Failure to Disperse. a. Riot. A person is guilty of riot if he participates with four or more others in a course of disorderly conduct as defined in section 2C:33-2a:
(1) With purpose to commit or facilitate the commission of a crime;
(2) With purpose to prevent or coerce official action; [or]
(3) When he or any other participant, known to him, uses or plans to use a firearm or other deadly weapon; or
(4) When he or any other participant known to him, causes monetary loss or damage to tangible property of another.
Riot if committed under circumstances set forth in paragraph (3) is a crime of the third degree. Riot if committed under circumstances set forth in paragraph (4) is a crime of the third degree if the pecuniary loss is in excess of $2,000. Otherwise riot is a crime of the fourth degree.
b. Failure of disorderly persons to disperse upon official order. Where five or more persons are participating in a course of disorderly conduct as defined in section 2C:33-2 a. likely to cause substantial harm, a peace officer or other public servant engaged in executing or enforcing the law may order the participants and others in the immediate vicinity to disperse. A person who refuses or knowingly fails to obey such an order commits a disorderly persons offense.
c. The court shall order an individual convicted under paragraph (4) of subsection a. of this section to reimburse the individual property owner, or a local unit of government of this State for damages incurred as a result of the riot. The amount shall be reasonable and shall not exceed the individual’s pro rata share of the costs. The State's Set Off of Individual Liability (SOIL) program established pursuant to P.L.1981, c.239 (C.54A:9-8.1 et seq.) may be utilized under this section.
(cf: P.L.1981, c.290, s.35)
2. This act shall take effect immediately.
At present, a person is guilty of the offense of Riot if, while acting in concert with four or more others he engages in certain disorderly conduct with purpose to commit or facilitate the commission of a crime; or with purpose to prevent or coerce official action. Under these circumstances, riot is a crime of the fourth degree, punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000 or both. If the actor or any other participant, known to him, uses or plans to use a firearm or other deadly weapon, riot is a crime of the third degree, punishable by up to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $15,000 or both.
This bill amends the Riot statute to provide that the offense is committed if the actor or any other person known to him, causes pecuniary loss or damage to tangible property of another. Under this circumstance, riot is a crime of the third if the pecuniary loss is in excess of $2,000. Otherwise, it is a crime of the fourth degree.
The bill further establishes an affirmative responsibility on persons guilty of Riot to reimburse property owners for damage caused by the riot behavior. The sponsor recognizes and affirms that the right to peaceful assembly and protest is enshrined as a fundamental liberty interest. However, when protest turns to riot, it is the sponsor’s view that parties whose unlawful conduct causes destruction of property should bear the affirmative responsibility for resulting damages, where possible. Restitution is an authorized disposition available to the court upon a criminal conviction under the Code of Criminal Justice. Moreover, N.J.S.A. 2A:48-1 et seq. provides for reimbursement from the public funds for property damage suffered by individual property owners due to riots, with indemnification due to municipalities for damages paid out; as well as a separate right of action by a property owner against persons participating in riot behavior. Nonetheless, should an individual found to have participated in riot damage acquire or have access to assets, they should first pay that obligation. The State's Set off of Individual Liability (SOIL) program has proven to be an administratively efficient means of collecting debts owed to State agencies.