Home>Legislature>Bucco, O’Scanlon bill would raise bar to charge police over illegal searches

State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton). (Photo: Nikita Biryukov for the New Jersey Globe)

Bucco, O’Scanlon bill would raise bar to charge police over illegal searches

Cannabis enabling legislation removed requirement such a search be made on the basis of a victim’s protected class

By Nikita Biryukov, March 19 2021 10:07 am

Two Republican state senators introduced a bill that would once again make it more difficult to charge police officers who illegally search minors Thursday.

The measure would reverse a change to the state code made by the bill creating the framework for the state’s legal marijuana market.

The latter bill made it easier to criminally charge police officers who conduct illegal searches by removing a requirement that the illegal search was made on the basis of a victim’s protected class, like their race, religion or sexual orientation, among others.

“We want to ensure bad cops are held accountable while permitting good cops to do their jobs,” said State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver). “This bill strikes that balance and cleans up some of the mess created by the haphazard process used to legalize cannabis in New Jersey.”

The Republican measure would restore that higher threshold, though it’s not likely to move through the legislature.

Democrats spent months negotiating the marijuana bill, and the provisions making it easier to charge officers for illegal searches were a key provision sought by the Legislative Black and Latino Caucuses, whose members feared its absence would continue disproportionate policing of non-white marijuana crime.

Though, that won’t stop Republicans from trying.

“The new law is an absurd over-reaction,” said State Sen. Tony Bucco (R-Boonton). “Of course, we want officers to follow proper protocol at all times, but there has to be some proportionality between the violation and the punishment.  In a split second, an unintentional mistake could land an otherwise exemplary officer in prison for years, even if no actual harm came to anyone during the interaction.

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