“By passing this bill into law we are giving law enforcement back the tools they need to ensure safety in our communities and give both New Jerseyans and tourists the peace of mind they deserve,” said Bucco (R-25). “I look forward to continuing this type of bipartisan partnership with the Governor, Senate President, Speaker, and law enforcement agencies across the state to enhance our public safety and make New Jersey a place where we are proud to live, work, and raise a family.”
When legislation was enacted in 2021 to legalize cannabis, the new law established strict criminal penalties for law enforcement officers if they made a minor procedural mistake while investigating complaints of underage alcohol or cannabis use, even if the mistake was not made knowingly. A violation was deemed a deprivation of civil rights and was, at minimum, a crime of the third degree, which can result in the officer losing his/her job and incarceration for three to five years.
As Republicans predicted, this has only discouraged officers from enforcing the law, while encouraging underage individuals to break it. In the years since, New Jersey has witnessed a noticeable rise in complaints from communities regarding the public consumption of alcohol and cannabis by underage individuals, especially in shore towns during the summer months.
Senator Bucco’s bill establishes a more reasonable standard when evaluating an officer’s behavior. The new standard, requires that the act be committed intentionally in order to survive a charge of a deprivation of an individual’s civil rights. As a result, law enforcement officers will be better protected from unfair prosecutions so they can go back to doing the important work of keeping our communities safe.
This legislation is identical to another bill sponsored by Senator Bucco and several other Republicans that was first introduced when the problem first arose in 2021.
You can read the full text of A-5610/S-3954 online.
For further comments from Sen. Bucco about this bill, please contact Chris Sivel, SRO Deputy Director of Communications at [email protected].