It has been the long-time position of the New Jersey Judiciary that the only crimes that may be prosecuted in New Jersey must be alleged to have been committed in this state. Several New Jersey Assemblymen are attempting to expand the reach of this state’s law enforcement by submitting Bill A1418, which would allow for the prosecution of certain sex crimes that occur outside of the state, to be prosecuted in the New Jersey state courts. Bill A1418 was inspired after last year’s Supreme Court case, State v. Sumulikoski and Sopel, 221 N.J. 953 (2015), which ruled that the State of New Jersey does not have the authority to prosecute crimes that are committed outside its jurisdiction.
Specifically, Bill A1418 seeks to provide the state with the jurisdiction to prosecute sex crimes committed by an actor who has supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim, who is less than 18 years old, even if the criminal conduct occurs outside this state’s jurisdiction, as long as the supervision began in the state of New Jersey. Examples of a “supervisory or disciplinary role” are a schoolteacher, athletics coach, tutor, etc. The bill would amend the following statutes to provide for this provision: Endangering the Welfare of a Child, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4, Aggravated Sexual Assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2A(2)(b), and Sexual Assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:2C(3)(b). The sponsors of the bill, Assemblymen Johnson, Caride, Schaer, Vainieri Huttle, and Schepisi, of Bergen County, introduced the bill in response to the Paramus High School sex crimes scandal.
This proposed amendment to the Criminal Code is in direct response to the NJ Supreme Court stating that the state lacked jurisdiction to prosecute two employees of Paramus High School who had sexual contact with three students while chaperoning a school trip to Germany. The two men were originally indicted for Sexual Assault and Endangering the Welfare of a Child, but the Bergen County court dismissed the charges on the basis that it lacked jurisdiction to prosecute alleged crimes that occurred in Germany. The Supreme Court affirmed the Bergen County court’s determination. The sponsors of the bill have since been quoted by various news sources that this bill is intended to protect children who attend school trips from potentially unlawful conduct by their chaperones.
A1418 was introduced before the NJ Assembly on January 27, 2016, and referred directly to the Assembly Judiciary Committee. On February 8, 2016, the Committee favorably reported on the bill, sending it back to the Assembly for a second reading.