Several members of the State's General Assembly introduced a bill Monday that would increase the penalties for a number of crimes committed during a State of Emergency.
Bill A-3524 was introduced after legislators said there were a spate of looting, robbery and unlawful trespassing incidents, among other crimes, that took place during Gov. Chris Christie's declaration of a state of emergency following Hurricane Sandy.
Bill A-3524 would see crimes such as robbery committed during a state of emergency upgraded from a second degree crime to first degree. Burglary would become a second degree crime and shoplifting, regardless of the value of the property stolen, would be upgraded to a second degree crime, among other heightened punitive measures.
The bill was introduced by Assembly Republicans Dave Russo, R-40, Scott Rumana, R-40, and Monmouth County Assembly members Mary Pat Angelini, R-11, and Declan O'Scanlon, R-13.
"This most recent series of disasters really opened our eyes to the tragedies that can occur during times of hardship,” O’Scanlon said in a release. “With nature wreaking havoc and ruining people’s lives it is incomprehensible to think that there are those who would take advantage of the folks who are suffering most. This bill is a message to all would-be thieves and burglars – a state of emergency does not mean the fruit is ripe for picking."
According to the release, a first degree crime is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000; a second degree crime is punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine; a third degree crime carries a penalty of 3 to 5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine; and a fourth degree crime is punishable by 18 months in prison and a fine up to $10,000.