TRENTON – After an Ocean County-based state licensed addiction counselor previously advocated for a so-called “snitch bill” to encourage drug users to report their dealers to law enforcement, State Senators Nilsa Cruz-Perez and Patrick Diegnan have sponsored the legislation that will change state civil asset forfeiture laws to allow confidential informants that report drug dealers to authorities to be paid 10% of any proceeds seized as a result of a criminal conviction obtained based on their information. The bill is heading to the State Senate Law & Public Safety Committee where it will get a hearing on the morning of Monday, February 6th, 2017.
Two state senators will introduce a bill to the New Jersey State Senate Law & Public Safety Committee on Monday that proponents argue could make a difference in Ocean County’s war on opiate addiction – because it would give drug addicts and their families a monetary incentive to rat out their dealers to law enforcement, by giving the informants a 10% piece of the action.
“This bill provides a financial incentive to people who possess information that could assist in the prosecution of certain drug-related offenses, and provides financial assistance for certain individuals in need of inpatient drug treatment,” a statement included with the text of the bill said.
Currently, state law requires all proceeds from property taken from drug dealers under New Jersey’s civil asset forfeiture laws to be used “solely for law enforcement purposes,” according to the statement. As the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice stipulates at this time, the law enforcement agency that prosecuted the drug dealer typically gets the money per N.J.S.A. 2C:64–6.
“This bill would reallocate a portion of the proceeds from forfeited property obtained from proceedings for drug-related offenses that arises out of information provided by an informant,” the statement continued. “The remaining proceeds would be distributed in accordance with current law.”
If the bill, S-2774, is successful in the state Senate along with its companion in the General Assembly, a person who provides information to law enforcement that leads to a prosecution of a drug-related crime would be entitled to 10 percent of the proceeds of any property seized as a result of the prosecution.
A Push From Ocean County For Informant Incentives
While the bill is being pushed by state legislators from Camden and Middlesex counties, it actually took a push from one of Ocean County’s own to see the novel approach to combating the drug epidemic get a chance at becoming law.
Legislative sources in Trenton who were not authorized to speak on the record said that the bill is moving forward after a push from John A. Brogan, Sr., a state licensed addiction counselor with a private practice in Toms River.
“The reason I want this bill is because it switches the fear from the families to these dealers,” he said, citing instances where Brogan, who contacted the 5th district delegation about introducing the bill, claims that area dealers have been threatening addicts and families to buy their wares.
“As a licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor, part of our education is to focus on effectuating positive change in our communities, and legislation is an avenue to do that for this problem,” he said. “I support any and all efforts to address this scourge on our community and this is just one part of it.”
Mr. Brogan, who is also an adjunct professor at Ocean County College, reached via phone Saturday said in an interview that this legislation is something that he previously pushed Ocean County legislators to pursue – unsuccessfully.
Brogan: Singer Committed To Bill, But Nothing Materialized
Brogan said approximately 4 years ago he contacted State Senator Bob Singer (R-Island Heights) about pursuing the same measure while serving as co-chair of the Ocean County DART Coalition’s prescription drug abuse committee. He said that after a phone conversation regarding the plan, Singer committed to getting the bill introduced, but nothing materialized that implemented his 10% proposal following their discussion, he claimed.
Brogan said that he became involved in DART program at the behest of Ocean County’s then-First Assistant Prosecutor, Terrence P. “Terry” Farley. Farley, who was known for his involvement in combating the drug problem, asked him to co-chair the prescription drug committee of the Ocean County DART Coalition, he said.
It was Brogan’s involvement in that organization that led him to approach Senator Singer about getting the bill introduced, he told OCP. Brogan announced Singer’s commitment to the bill at a DART coalition meeting, he said. But the Toms River man’s proposal to give 10% of the proceeds to informants never made it into the text of the bill proposed by Senator Singer in 2013.
Instead, Singer instead introduced a watered down version of the “snitch bill” at that time. That proposal differed from the 2017 bill in several important ways. Notably, rather than give 10% of proceeds of seized money to informants as Brogan proposed, Singer’s 2013 bill would have instead given wide discretion to the state’s county prosecutor’s offices as to the amount of any reward, among other things. The 2013 bill from Singer stipulated that the decision of the county prosecutor as to the reward would not be subject to judicial review.
The Singer-Bucco bill, which was never signed into law, further placed a limit on the payment of rewards to informants, capping rewards at 20% of all monies seized in a fiscal year. There is no such limit in the new proposal made by the Democratic legislators.
Brogan credited legislative aide Anthony Cappello, who grew up in Toms River and attended Donovan Catholic High School, for his help in getting the bill introduced. Cappello currently works as an aide for 5th Legislative District’s delegation. Cappello pitched Brogan’s idea to the legislators whose district includes Camden, among other urban areas impacted by drug issues not unlike those that have hit Ocean County. Brogan said he also proposed two other ideas to Singer, which he said Singer indicated he wasn’t interested in pursuing.
- Require law enforcement officers, teachers and first responders to be screened twice a year by an outside company (not in-house) for drug use.
- Require pain management doctors to blood test patients every 3 months to catch doctors that intentionally overprescribe opiate pills that often serve as gateway drugs for heroin addicts.
With his idea now having the backing of the Camden legislators, he is optimistic about its potential to make an impact on the county’s drug problem.
The legislative hearing on the new bill will take place on Monday at the State House Annex at 10:30 am in Committee Room 10, on the 3rd floor of the building.
The full members of the committee are the following state senators, one of which represents Ocean County:
- Linda R. Greenstein
- Patrick J Diegnan
- Christopher Bateman
- James W. Holzapfel
- Nicholas J. Sacco
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