A bill recommended by the state Assembly Judiciary Committee would invite lawsuits from victims of gender-motivated crimes or stalking crimes, New Jersey criminal attorneys report. The bill, A-746, was approved by the committee and seeks to establish “a civil cause of action for gender-motivated violence.” The committee said that the bill outlines the kinds of crimes that will qualify as gender-motivated, and the amount and type of damages victims will be allowed to pursue.
Members of the committee presented the bill after the United States Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Morrison that gender-motivated violence must be settled at the state level. After claiming that current state legislation may not fully protect victims of gender-motivated crimes, the committee submitted the bill in order to allow victims of such crimes more choices when seeking damages against their aggressors. New Jersey criminal lawyers say that A-746 is similar to bills that California and Illinois have recently enacted, and is intended to give the state full authority.
A-746 states that gender-motivated violence is sex discrimination, and can take any number of criminal forms, such as:
- unwanted sexual attention,
- “physical intrusion…of a sexual nature,” or
- physical force against a victim or his/her property, whether threatened or carried out.
When these crimes have an undertone of gender profiling, the bill would allow victims to file civil action lawsuits, even if the perpetrators have not been charged with or found guilty of a crime.
New Jersey criminal attorneys say that A-746 proposes a two-year time frame in which victims can file claims, with provisions for those under 18. Victims can seek injunctive relief, actual damages, damages for emotional distress, punitive damages and attorney’s fees. In conjunction with A-746, the committee recommended bill A-762, which allows victims of stalking to file similar causes of civil action.
The bill has been met with some dissension, even within the committee, because victims already have the ability to sue their attackers for emotional distress and damages. Some lawmakers also claim that enacting statutes for gender-motivated violence puts an emphasis on the perpetrator’s intent. Lawmakers claim this could even lead to speculative claims of gender-related violence for crimes that do not necessarily warrant the label. The New Jersey criminal attorneys at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, PA await the outcome of these recommendations.