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By ARep | December 3rd, 2012 - 4:21pm
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RUMANA-O’SCANLON-ANGELINI-RUSSO INTRODUCE BILL INCREASING PENALTIES FOR CRIMES COMMITTED
UNDER STATE OF EMERGENCY

While millions of New Jersey residents and businesses were devastated by Superstorm Sandy on Oct. 29, there were numerous incidents of looting, robbery and unlawful trespass that occurred in the storm’s aftermath despite Governor Christie’s declaration of a state of emergency.

Today, Assembly Republicans Dave Russo and Scott Rumana, R-Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic, along with their colleagues Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, both R-Monmouth, have introduced legislation increasing the penalties for certain crimes committed when a state of emergency is in force throughout the state or any given locality.

“While most of our residents and businesses rallied to help and protect each other during the superstorm, there were incidents of unscrupulous individuals who sought to capitalize on this crisis,” said Rumana. “Under no circumstance can theft or robbery be justified. Those who take advantage of people at their most vulnerable time should be severely punished.

Crimes such as burglary, robbery, shoplifting, riot, and failure to disperse are some of the offenses for which penalties will be increased if committed when a state of emergency is declared during extenuating circumstances such as a flood, hurricane or superstorm.

“At a time when people are dealing with a catastrophe of historic proportion and people are uniting in the effort to help each other, those who seek to profit or create mayhem under these conditions must face the appropriate penalty,” said Angelini. “It is unfortunate there are individuals who have no conscience when a chance to take advantage of a disaster situation presents itself. This bill will make them think twice before they commit such deplorable acts.”

Under the legislators’ bill, A-3524, crimes such as robbery committed against a person would be upgraded from a second degree crime to first degree; burglary would be a second degree crime, regardless of injury; shoplifting would be upgraded to a second degree crime, regardless of the value of the property; and trespassing and riot is increased to a third degree crime, regardless of the purpose.

“This most recent series of disasters really opened our eyes to the tragedies that can occur during times of hardship,” O’Scanlon said. “With nature wreaking havoc and ruining people’s lives it is incomprehensible to think that there are those who would take advantage of the folks who are suffering most. This bill is a message to all would-be thieves and burglars – a state of emergency does not mean the fruit is ripe for picking. Those who think that a disaster is an entrée to looting are going to be sorely disappointed. The punishment will match the crime.”

“News reports of pilfering and outright defiance of the law during this catastrophe was sickening,” said Russo. “While we saw the compassion and genuine concern by first responders, emergency personnel and citizens across the state to save lives and offer assistance, there were predators who sought to take advantage of the circumstances. These kinds of actions are deplorable and offenders should face a stiff penalty for seeking to profit at the expense of those who are victims.”

A first degree crime is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000; a second degree crime is punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine; a third degree crime carries a penalty of 3 to 5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine; and a fourth degree crime is punishable by 18 months in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

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