Newark, NJ-Each citizen has rights when they are pulled over or otherwise engaged by police. Ideally, these rights keep each one of us from being mistreated by police or wrongfully accused of crime. But we aren’t always guaranteed every law enforcement officer will respect our rights and follow correct procedures throughout our interaction with them. There will probably never be such a guarantee, but a recent law should help to improve police-citizen encounters.
Last month, lawmakers in New Jersey passed new legislation that will help alleviate the “he said, she said” where it is the accused’s word against the cop’s word. The bill, A2280, should help assure there is a clear record of a traffic stop and other interactions a citizen has with a police officer.
Under the legislation, enacted on August 16th, municipal police departments across the state must outfit newly purchased or leased patrol cars with cameras or outfit each officer with body cameras as an alternative. Each agency will be allowed to choose from the two options depending on their budget constraints. Much of the funding for the bill will come from a $25 surcharge on DWI convictions.
The legislation was introduced by Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, who is also a former Mayor of Washington Township. The bill was inspired by his experience with police. In 2012, the lawmaker was arrested and charged with DWI even though he vehemently denied having any alcoholic drinks the day of his arrest.
Video recorded at the time of Moriarty’s arrest contradicted accounts included in Officer Joseph DiBuonaventura’s arrest report. An investigation uncovered a number of discrepancies between what occurred during Moriarty’s pursuit and arrest and what Officer DiBuonventura included in the official report that was used to prosecute Moriarty.
The video evidence eventually compelled prosecutors to dismiss the charges against Moriarty and provided evidence DiBuonaventura illegally stopped and targeted Moriarty for arrest.
DiBuonaventura was later charged with over a dozen criminal counts, including official misconduct, falsifying reports and harassment, NJ.com reported.
Moriarty acknowledged he was fortunate, since only a small fraction of the municipalities patrol cars were equipped with cameras. Had DiBuonaventura not had a camera, Moriarty would have no proof the charges against him were false and he could have been unjustly convicted.
In a press conference, Moriarty said “As recent controversies have shown, it helps to have video footage to back up claims of excessive force and abuse of authority against civilians,” according to NJ.com reported.
He also noted the law protects officers from false accusations of misconduct or abuse of power so the cameras benefit New Jersey residents and police alike. This law will help prevent incidents like the one Moriarty experienced from happening, giving the accused a record of their stop, arrest and their interactions with police. It will serve as a check to assure police respect each citizen’s rights.
I believe this is a great law that will give citizens additional protections from unscrupulous and unethical law enforcement officers. In the context of your criminal defense, these cameras can provide me with the clear and convincing evidence I need to craft a persuasive and successful defense on your behalf. When you are facing criminal charges, my legal knowledge and my resolve to give you the best representation possible will give you a greater chance of avoiding conviction.