NJ Governor Chris Christie has signed off on a new law that will grant criminal defendants in New Jersey greater access to DNA testing to prove their innocence.
State lawmakers formally passed the bill in June. Now the governor has signed the bill into law. As a result, starting in March 2016, NJ criminal defendants will no longer need to be incarcerated in order to get the state to cover the costs of DNA testing that might prove their innocence.
The previous law in New Jersey made it extremely difficult for criminal defendants who lacked financial resources to gain access to evidence such as DNA tests. However, with the passage of A1678/S1365, New Jersey has now joined 35 other states that do not require criminal defendants to be incarcerated in order to request DNA testing at the state’s expense.
Under the old law, criminal defendants in New Jersey who were not currently incarcerated were ineligible to request state funding for DNA testing that might prove their innocence. This posed a serious problem for individuals who had been convicted years or even decades earlier and had therefore already served their time. Moreover, a criminal defendant who had been placed on probation or granted early release on parole was also unable to request that the state cover the costs of DNA tests that might exonerate them.
NJ Assemblyman Gordon Johnson sponsored the legislation in the New Jersey Assembly and pushed to give criminal defendants greater access to the evidence that might ultimately prove their innocence. Johnson noted that many individuals have been exonerated only “after years, sometimes decades, spent behind bars for crimes they did not commit.”
The Innocence Project, a nonprofit group that devotes time and commits significant resources to clearing wrongfully convicted people, also backed the change in the law. According to data compiled by the Innocence Project, more than 330 people have been exonerated as a result of post-conviction DNA testing. Seven of those individuals were convicted in New Jersey criminal courts.
The new law will make it far easier for those who have been wrongfully convicted to fight their convictions and clear their records. This matters a great deal because a criminal record can cause serious problems and make it almost impossible for a person to move on with their lives even after they have been released from jail.
For more information about the recent law granting increased access to DNA testing in NJ criminal cases, read the NJLawJournal.com article entitled, “NJ Expands DNA Testing for Criminal Defendants.” http://www.njlawjournal.com/id=1202742529943/NJ-Expands-DNA-Testing-for-Criminal-Defendants
If you have been charged with a crime in North Jersey or anywhere else in the Garden State, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Lombardi and Lombardi can help you. We have many years of experience representing clients and negotiating with NJ prosecutors. We know how the courts work and we know how to protect your rights. Call today to schedule a free consultation about your case.