In Our Community

Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015 Continues Advancing

Read the release on the AssemblyDems website.

Legislation Would Permit Victims without Ties to Offenders to Seek Protective Orders

Assembly approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Gabriela Mosquera, John McKeon, Daniel Benson and Shavonda Sumter to allow more victims of sexual assault to seek protective orders against their perpetrators continued advancing on Thursday.

“Simply seeing an abuser – whether he or she is a new acquaintance or an old friend – forces many sexual assault survivors to relive the trauma of having been violated, and current law says they have no option but to suffer in silence,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Every person in this state has a right to feel safe while going about his or her daily life. With this bill, we reaffirm our commitment to the notion that all residents of New Jersey should be able to seek the protection they need to live in peace.”

Under current law, in order to pursue a protective order, a victim must have had a previous or existing domestic relationship with the offender, such as a spousal or dating relationship, or must file a criminal complaint against the offender. The bill (A-4078), which is to be known as the “Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015,” would eliminate these preconditions.

“Most times, sexual assault, much like domestic violence, is about control for the perpetrators,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This legislation will strip perpetrators of that control and help victims fight back by giving them access to law enforcement protections they never had before.”

Specifically, the bill would authorize protective orders for victims of non-consensual sexual contact, sexual penetration or lewdness or attempts at such conduct during cases in which the victim does not have a domestic relationship with the offender and does not wish to file a criminal complaint against him or her.

“Sexual violence knows no boundaries and neither should protective orders,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “These orders have saved lives in the past and should be available to all victims, regardless of their relationship, or lack thereof, with the perpetrator.”

“A protection order can be integral in helping a victim put their life back together again and move forward,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This type of legal support is key, not only in preventing a repeat in violence, but also in preventing harassment, stalking, intimidation and other serious disruptions to a victim’s life.”

“Often times victims fear that they will be blamed or face reprisal if they come forward, which is why sexual violence continues to be an underreported crime,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This measure will eliminate a major flaw in our judicial system and create a greater culture of support and protection for victims.”

While current statutes allow domestic violence victims to seek a protective order against offenders, individuals who are victims of sexual assault, but not domestic violence, do not have similar protections under the law, Vainieri Huttle said.

An order for emergency, ex parte relief pursuant to the bill would be granted when necessary to protect the safety and well-being of a victim – regardless of whether criminal charges were filed – and would remain in effect until a superior court judge issues a further order.

A violation of the bill’s provisions would be a crime of the fourth degree. A person convicted of a second or subsequent non-indictable offense be required to serve a minimum of 30 days of imprisonment.

A protective order may include, but would not be limited to, prohibiting the offender from: engaging in nonconsensual sexual contact with the victim; entering the victim’s home, school or place of employment and other places the victim regularly frequents; having contact or communication with the victim, which includes personal, written, telephone and electronic contact; stalking or following the victim or threatening to do so; and committing or attempting to commit an act of harassment, including cyber harassment, against the victim.

If the victim is under 18 years old, has a developmental disability or has a mental disease or defect that makes it impossible to provide consent, the bill would permit a parent or guardian to file the application on his or her behalf.

The bill was approved by the Assembly in February and advanced Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Mosquera Bill to Help Prevent Cardiac Illness in Student-Athletes Signed Into Law

Read the release on the AssemblyDems website.

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., Gabriela Mosquera, Jason O’Donnell and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to help recognize and prevent cardiac illnesses in children was signed into law on Monday.

“We’ve seen far too many tragic cardiac incidents among students in recent years,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “In most of these cases, the student was completely unaware of any pre-existing cardiac condition. This law will help increase detection and prevent future tragedies.”

Diegnan has consistently advocated for better policies to help prevent sudden tragic cardiac incidents among students, including sponsoring legislation to develop an information campaign about a specific type of heart disease – hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) – as well as legislation requiring automatic external defibrillators in schools.

The law (A-1473) signed today will require that an annual medical examination of any person 19 years of age and under include questions contained in the “Pre-Participation Physical Evaluation” form developed to screen students seeking to participate in school-sponsored athletics.

“Some people miss the signs of a cardiac condition because they are so accustomed to them, unaware of the danger to their health,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This can help identify at-risk children early so they can receive the proper treatment before a serious incident occurs.”

The law also requires the Commissioner of Health, in consultation with various experts, to develop a cardiac screening professional development module, which advanced practice nurses, physicians, and physician assistants performing medical examinations would be required to periodically complete. These individuals will be required to attest to their completion of the module upon renewal of certification, registration, or licensure, as applicable.

The module shall include, but need not be limited to, the following:

1) completing and reviewing a detailed medical history with an emphasis on cardiovascular family history and personal reports of symptoms;

2) identifying symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest that may require follow-up assessment with a cardiologist;

3) recognizing normal structural changes of the heart;

4) recognizing prodromal symptoms that precede sudden cardiac arrest;

5) performing the cardiovascular physical examination; and

6) reviewing the major etiologies of sudden unexplained cardiac death with an emphasis on structural abnormalities and acquired conditions.

“Prevention is key to ensuring students are heart healthy as they participate in school activities,” said O’Donnell (D-Hudson). “By requiring and performing tests for heart disease, we will be helping students not only prepare for their next activity but for a lifetime of healthy living.”

“The adage says that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “With this legislation, we can begin the process of teaching students how to safely stay active and healthy throughout their lives.”

Additionally, the law directs the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety, in consultation with the Commissioner of Health, to adopt rules and regulations to carry out the provisions of the law.

The bill will go into effect on September 1, 2015.

Mosquera and Moriarty Bill to Combat Opioid Epidemic Signed Into Law

Read the release on the AssemblyDems website.

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Marlene Caride, Gabriela Mosquera, Nancy Pinkin and Paul Moriarty to help law enforcement better coordinate efforts to combat the state’s growing opioid epidemic has been signed into law.

“As we’ve seen from many reports, the opioid epidemic is not confined to any particular area or demographic,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It crosses urban and suburban boundaries, as well as race, class and many other sectors. Giving law enforcement the tools to coordinate their efforts is a critical part of the statewide strategy to combat this epidemic.”

The law (A-1436) directs the attorney general to coordinate statewide law enforcement efforts against opioid drug abuse. The measure was inspired by one of the recommendations included in the State Commission of Investigation’s eye-opening July 2013 report, “Scenes from an Epidemic.”

“Our goal with this law is to strengthen law enforcement efforts at every level to combat the opioid trade that has gripped many families and communities,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Even though resources currently exist within these agencies to investigate these cases, coordination of those resources is key to effectively combating drug diversion.”

The law seeks to identify, investigate and prosecute the illegal sources and distribution of prescription opioid drugs and provide training for law enforcement officials, physicians, pharmacists and other health care professionals in state-of-the-art methods to detect prescription drug diversion and related abuses.

“Drug abuse is destroying communities throughout our state, and we have a collective duty to be proactive about combating the issue,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “This law is about stopping the problem at the source and saving lives.”

“Opioid drug abuse, in addition to tearing families across New Jersey apart, costs our state in terms of health care expenses, law enforcement expenses and overall potential loss,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This epidemic warrants the urgent, targeted action from law enforcement for which this mandate calls.”

Under the law, the attorney general may issue appropriate directives, establish task forces and implement other measures deemed necessary to execute duties outlined in the law. Additionally, the law empowers the attorney general to call for assistance from employees of any state, county or municipal department, board, bureau, commission or agency as may be required and as may be available for these purposes.

Assemblywoman Mosquera Teams Up with Martial Arts Center for “Operation Stop Women’s Violence”

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Assemblywoman Marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month by taking part in Hands-on Self-Defense Demonstrations

Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester) on Monday partnered with martial arts experts at Underground Martial Arts in South Jersey to host a special forum for women called “Operation Stop Women’s Violence” as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April).

“This was an eye-opening and inspiring event,” said Mosquera. “As we pause to honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it’s important to take stock of what can and needs to be done to empower more people to protect themselves. Coupling strong public policy with self defense is a great start. I look forward to crafting more laws to protect victims of violence and, even more importantly, help prevent it in the first place.”

The event was designed to promote self-protection and defense and call attention to the public policy issues supporting the protection of assault victims. Mosquera has been one of the legislature’s leading advocates against sexual and domestic violence, most recently sponsoring a bill (A-4078) that is working its way through the legislature to enable more victims of sexual assault to seek protective orders against their perpetrators.

While current statutes allow domestic violence victims to seek a protective order against offenders, individuals who are victims of sexual assault, but not domestic violence, do not have similar protections under the law.

Mosquera’s bill would grant an order for emergency relief when necessary to protect the safety and well-being of a victim – regardless of whether criminal charges were filed – and would remain in effect until a superior court judge issues a further order.

Mosquera noted that sexual violence is a very serious public health problem that affects millions of women and men. In the United States, one in five women have been raped in their lifetime and nearly one in two women have experienced other forms of sexual violence at some point in their lives.

During the event, Mosquera took part in hands-on demonstrations involving the psychology of self-defense, defenses against common attacks, and empowering combatives. *Pictures from the event are attached.

Mosquera also hailed the efforts of Underground Martial Arts and Fitness Center to empower students to become fit, protect themselves and build unshakable confidence, which, in turn, is magnified in all areas of their lives.

Assemblyman Moriarty Pushes for Legislation to Crack Down on Dangerous Trend of “Swatting”

Read the full release at the AssemblyDems website.

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty is pushing legislation to crack down on the dangerous trend known as “swatting” after a string of recent hoax incidents in New Jersey drew large-scale law enforcement responses.

The FBI describes “swatting” as making a hoax call to 9-1-1 to draw a response from law enforcement, usually a SWAT team. The individuals who engage in this activity, many of whom are teens and twenty-somethings with ties to the online gaming community, use technology to make it appear that the emergency call is coming from the victim’s phone. The FBI notes that sometimes swatting is done for revenge, sometimes as a prank, but either way, it is a serious crime that has potentially dangerous consequences.

Moriarty first introduced the bill in November in response to a swatting incident in Millville where a law enforcement team swarmed an innocent family’s house believing a violent altercation was taking place inside.

Since then, a string of more recent swatting incidents in New Jersey — including a gaming shop in Clifton, a home in Upper Freehold and an elementary School in Homdel — have underscored the urgency of enacting swifter penalties for hoaxes and false alarms.

“This is not a harmless prank phone call like back in the day,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “The very nature of the hoax is to draw a large scale law enforcement response. This diverts valuable resources from other legitimate crimes, puts innocent people in harm’s way and wastes thousands of tax dollars each time a team responds.”

Moriarty’s bill would upgrade the crime of creating a false public alarm to a crime of the second degree whenever the act involves a false report or warning of an impending bombing, hostage situation, or person armed with a firearm or other deadly weapon capable of producing death or serious bodily injury.

Under current law, such an act is ordinarily a crime of the third degree, punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000, or both. The responsible party would also be liable for a civil penalty of $2,000 or the actual costs incurred by or resulting from the law enforcement and emergency services response to the false alarm.

Under Moriarty’s bill, the crime, as upgraded, would be punishable by a term of imprisonment of five to 10 years, a fine of up to $150,000, or both, and the responsible party would remain liable for the above described civil penalty.

“To say swatting is troublesome is a severe understatement. We’re talking about elaborate hoaxes that have drawn teams of specially trained officers, sometimes resulting in the closure of whole city blocks or roads, and occasionally even causing serious harm, like heart attacks, to the unsuspecting and innocent people who have these teams show up at their door. It’s time to send a message that this is not going to be treated lightly,” added Moriarty.

The Assemblyman hopes to see his bill posted for a hearing before the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee in the near future.

Assemblyman Moriarty Continues to be the Consumer Advocate that We Remember from TV

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New Jersey Assembly member Paul Moriarty, D-Camden, Gloucester, admits that making the transition from journalist to lawmaker carried a certain degree of culture shock. Moriarity had worked as an investigative journalist at KYW-CBS-3 for 17 years before getting elected to the Assembly in 2005.

“When you’re on the other side (as a politician), it’s quite different,” he said. “People are asking you questions, and they may not be the questions you want them to ask.” Yet for all that, the jobs aren’t all that dissimilar.

Moriarty’s specialty was exposing consumer fraud. As a lawmaker, he said, he’s doing much the same thing — looking for wrongs that need to be fixed. He even serves as chair of the Assembly’s Consumer Affairs Committee.

In fact, he’s able to take the job farther now than he could as a journalist. Back when he was reporting, his big hope was that the problems he exposed would draw the attention of people in a position to correct them.

Now, Moriarty himself is capable of holding hearings or introducing legislation designed to fix those problems.

Last month, for example, the General Assembly passed a bill he sponsored that would require auto dealers to inform potential buyers about outstanding recalls on used vehicles before selling them. Another would prohibit car rental agencies from renting vehicles with defects that haven’t been fixed.

He’s expecting both bills to pass out of the Senate and head to the governor’s desk.
Moriarty said he considers consumer protection to be a very important issue for state lawmakers.

“There aren’t a lot of lobbyists running around on behalf of consumers,” he said. “They’re working for various industries.”

One vast difference between work as a lawmaker and a journalist is the pace of the job, Moriarty said. Journalism is all about the frantic rush to meet deadlines. He said it’s a truism in the broadcast news business that you don’t go on the air because you’re ready. You go on because it’s 6 o’clock.

“Trenton time,” on the other hand, decelerates every process to a sluggish pace. That isn’t necessarily because of inefficiency, Moriarty said. A certain amount of slow deliberation is intentionally built into the process, to forestall against ill-considered policy getting passed into law.

One element of state government he thinks many people don’t understand is how difficult it is to get something passed into law. At any time, 3,000 or 4,000 pieces of legislation are working their way through the system. In an average year, about 100 of them might become law.

But on a positive note, he said that many members of the public don’t understand just how important and influential their voices are as citizens.

“I can honestly tell you that most of the bills I propose come from constituents, where they tell me about a problem or an issue,” he said.

So if he went back to being an investigative reporter tomorrow, would he find things to investigate based on what he’s seen in Trenton? Absolutely.

“Government is ripe for investigation,” he said. “I could come up with 100 investigations tomorrow for waste and abuse.”

In fact, he finds it regrettable that Trenton doesn’t have more journalists, watching every move of lawmakers like himself and keeping them accountable. He sees it as symptomatic of a malady afflicting journalism in general these days.

“Journalism is more interested in the lighter touch,” he said. “Whether the Patriots deflated footballs or not, or whether some celebrity did something or not.”

Since he arrived in Trenton, he’s seen the contingent of statehouse reporters on “reporter’s row” dwindle from about 30 individuals to “a ghost town.” As far as he’s concerned, that’s not good for the state of New Jersey. “Everybody needs somebody looking at what they’re doing,” he said.