A bill that would allow a four-year pilot program in Ocean County to electronically monitor defendants charged with or convicted of physically abusive domestic violence has passed the General Assembly.
The bipartisan measure was inspired by the tragic death of Letizia “Lisa” Zindell of Toms River, who was killed in 2009 by her ex-fiancé who had been released from jail the day before despite violating a restraining order several times.
“Lisa Zindell’s tragic loss exposed a weakness in our laws for protecting victims from repeated domestic violence,” says Republican Assemblyman Ron Dancer, one of the bill’s sponsors. “Lisa understood the dangers of domestic violence and did everything she could to protect herself, but our laws are not strong enough to keep people safe from depraved abusers who are likely to continue their physical abuse.”
The bill would allow Ocean County courts, during a four-year pilot program, to order electronic monitoring of someone who is likely to repeat physical abusive behavior after having been previously convicted for domestic violence, or who has violated a domestic violence restraining order and under gone a risk assessment court hearing to determine the likelihood of causing physical harm.
On the Democratic side of the aisle the bill is sponsored by Assembly members Troy Singleton, Dan Benson, Tom Giblin and Gabriela Mosquera.
“Letizia Zindell’s killer violated the restraining order she filed against him repeatedly up until the day he took her life,” says Singleton. “Her tragic death shows more must be done to protect victims of domestic abuse.”
If electronic monitoring is required, victims would receive notification via cell phone or computer if their offender is nearby. Offenders would have to provide victims with a device capable of receiving information from electronic monitoring devices.
“I’m proud that Ocean County will test this program in Lisa’s name,” says Dancer. “This program is smart victim protection that will make New Jersey a leader in using technology to protect people from being re-victimized. Physical abuse should not be tolerated once, let alone twice and we should take advantage of technology to make sure violent offenders cannot repeat their crimes.”
The pilot program would apply to defendants charged with or convicted of contempt of a domestic violence order. In determining whether to place a defendant on electronic monitoring, the court may hold a hearing to consider the likelihood that the defendant’s participation in such monitoring would deter the defendant from injuring the victim.
Any defendant ordered by the court to be placed on electronic monitoring may be ordered to pay the costs and expenses related to electronic monitoring and victim notification or a portion of the costs and expenses, based on the defendant’s ability to pay.
In addition, the defendant would be assessed a monitoring fee of $250. The court could waive the fee in cases of extreme financial hardship.