Policing in the United States has been scrutinized more and more over the past few years as the public's trust in law enforcement has reached a low point. Visibility and accountability have become crucial factors in the way police departments must function going forward — which is why it's a bit surprising that New Jersey has waited until now to address the issue.
In a move that will bring the state in line with 46 others, New Jersey has passed a long overdue bill that will require law enforcement officers to obtain a license as a condition of employment. Advocacy for a bill of this sort began over 15 years ago and was finally passed in July.
What It Requires
The bill names a list of disqualifications that apply to all prospective officers. These include basic, no-brainer rules such as:
- Cannot have been convicted of a crime, an act of domestic violence, or anything that will prevent an officer from legally carrying a firearm
- Cannot have more than two reckless driving tickets or DWIs
- Cannot be named in a restraining order
- Must pass a psychological evaluation by a psychologist
Existing officers do not qualify for a license if they have:
- Mishandled or destroyed evidence
- Falsified a report
- Engaged in any sort of unethical practice
- Displayed bias toward any specific group
Equally important, though perhaps not as obvious, the bill disallows an officer's association with hate groups or those promoting government overthrow or their online support of such groups.
How It Can Help You
The main purpose of the bill is to weed out individuals who are not suited for law enforcement and therefore creating a safer and more trusting living experience for New Jersey residents. It's an admirable goal and one that is sorely needed to standardize policing state and nationwide.
When it comes to your legal defense, however, the bill unlocks a lot of new potential strategies. Because the licensing of police officers will be required (beginning January 1, 2024), that means that the licenses of these officers are potential avenues for regulatory errors — which in turn can lead to a dismissal of charges.
How? For one, these licenses must be renewed every three years. What if an officer lets their license lapse — even unintentionally — before making an arrest? Is that arrest lawful? The law also mandates continued education training that must be kept up to date. It remains to be seen how New Jersey police departments plan to manage license updates and renewal, but at worst, it gives the defense more technical details to exploit while presenting their case.
An Experienced Lawyer Can Help
If you are facing criminal charges, the best way to help your case is to find the representation you can trust.
Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento is an expert in New Jersey's criminal justice process. He and his team at the Lento Law Firm are ready to assist with your defense needs. Reach out online or by calling 888-535-3686.
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