New GOP bill would expand, stiffen penalties for rioting in N.J.

New GOP bill would expand, stiffen penalties for rioting in N.J.

A Juneteenth “beach party” that turned ugly in Long Branch over the weekend has inspired two veteran legislators to call for stiffer Garden State rioting penalties.

“What happened last weekend had nothing to do with partying and having a good time,” said state Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26). “It was lawlessness, and there is no appetite for that kind of behavior in New Jersey. Our police and law enforcement deserve credit for ensuring things didn’t get even more dangerous, but the situation was extremely volatile and had the potential to get out of control.

“You don’t have to look any further than Portland to see what can happen if you allow this kind of behavior to continue,” added Pennacchio. “Doing nothing is not an option. The consequences of inaction are too severe.”

S-3992 – sponsored by Pennacchio and fellow Senator Bob Singer of Ocean County – would both expand the definition of what constitutes a riot as well as increase the penalties associated with the commission of criminal offenses during a riot in progress. 

“Our shore economy is crucial to the state, and it won’t take many episodes like the random intimidation and rowdy behavior displayed in Long Branch to collapse one of New Jersey’s most valuable sectors,” said Singer (R-30). “Tourism, especially summer tourism, depends on families traveling here with their children and friends for vacation. Riots and rampant vandalism will drive visitors away and devastate the summer season. As a state, we cannot afford that, and we must take steps to defend our coastal appeal.”

The bill hadn’t been posted as of Tuesday afternoon, but the legislators’ joint release included the following bullet points which will be reflected in the forthcoming legislation:

  • “Expands the categories of riot to include aggravated riot, inciting a riot and aggravated inciting a riot.”
  • “A municipality has a duty to allow the municipal law enforcement agency to respond appropriately to protect persons and property during a riot or an unlawful assembly based on the availability of adequate equipment to its municipal law enforcement officers and relevant state and federal laws. If the governing body of a municipality or a person authorized by the governing body of the municipality breaches that duty, the municipality is civilly liable for any damages including damages arising from personal injury, wrongful death, or property damages proximately caused by the municipality’s breach of duty.”
  • “If the tentative budget of a municipality contains a funding reduction to the operating budget of the municipal law enforcement agency, the municipal attorney or a member of the governing body who objects to the funding reduction, may file an appeal to the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs within 30 days after the day the tentative budget is posted to the official website of the municipality.”
  • “Under the bill, if, during a riot, an object is thrown at certain emergency personnel including law enforcement officers, or if the emergency personnel is struck, whether or not with an object, the presumption of non-imprisonment for a first offense of a crime of the third degree shall not apply, and a mandatory period of six months imprisonment shall apply.”
  • “Combats cyber-intimidation by publication. Under the bill, it would be unlawful for a person to electronically publish another’s personal identification information with the intent incite violence or a crime against the person; or threaten or harass the person, placing such person in reasonable fear of bodily harm. A person who violates this section commits a crime of the fourth degree.”
  • “A person is guilty of criminal mischief if they deface or damage a memorial or historic property and the value of the damage to the memorial or historic property is greater than $200.”