New Bill Would Give Crime Victims Greater Chance of Restitution

Apr 17, 2019

Sen. Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove of the Ninth District have introduced legislation – S-3352/A-5088 – that aims to mandate wage garnishment and enforced community service for certain criminal defendants who fail to make restitution to their victims.

“This legislation was drafted after we learned that one of our constituents was the victim of theft by an employee who stole thousands of dollars to support his drug addiction. The thief was convicted in a court of law and ordered to pay restitution,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “However, he relapsed, failed to show up for work, failed to pay restitution and, subsequently, was incarcerated.

“This incident offers a view of the silent victims of the opioid epidemic – those who are victimized by people struggling with addiction. These cases aren’t discussed enough. The victim in this case, and her family, experienced tremendous financial hardships.”

According to the delegation, New Jersey spends hundreds of millions of dollars to assist addicts with their recovery, but the legislators feel the state must do more to “recognize those who are victimized by people who committed crimes to support their addiction. Justifiably, our constituent wants restitution so she can begin putting her family’s finances and life back together. We believe our legislative proposal gives greater weight to the rights of victims in cases involving wage garnishment.”

Under current law, a defendant convicted of a crime may be sentenced to probation, and must make restitution to the victim of his or her crime. If the defendant fails to make such restitution, the court has the option to order sanctions such as “wage garnishment, participation in enforced community service, participation in a labor assistance program and revocation of probation with the imposition of the original sentence,” the delegation explained.

The new measure would also require the court, in every case in which the defendant defaults in the payment of restitution or of any installment without good cause, to order the Probation Division to verify the accuracy of any information provided by the defendant concerning his income, assets and employment. Verification would include, among other provisions, confirming any such information with the defendant’s employer.

In addition, the bill would order the garnishment of the defendant’s wages or other earnings. The bill specifies that payment of wages by an employer in the form of cash would not preclude garnishment.

And, in a case where the defendant is unemployed, the legislation would order that the defendant participate in an appropriate job placement program.

“Further, the legislation provides that if a defendant subject to wage garnishment defaults in the payment of any single installment without good cause, the court must impose a term of participation in a labor assistance program or enforced community service,” said the lawmakers. “Such participation would not reduce the amount owed by the defendant in default.” —J.K.-H.

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