A new law signed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie allows witnesses and victims in domestic violence cases to testify via closed-circuit television. But legal experts say the law may be challenged.
The law passed the Assembly and Senate without opposition.
New Jersey follows the state of Delaware, which also allows TV testimony from witnesses of any age. The state of New York is also considering similar legislation.
But law experts say the law may be challenged due to the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee that defendants have the right to face their accusers in court.
A law allowing minors to testify remotely was upheld by the Supreme Court by only a narrow margin. The high court also strengthened the Confrontation Clause in 2004, a law professor from Stanford University explains.
The professor says he expects the law to be challenged, as there is no legal or historical precedent for remote testimony counting as confrontation.
Gabriela Mosquera, Democratic Assemblywoman and sponsor of the legislation, says there is no ambiguity.
“Victims are still appearing, and their testimonies are still able to be viewed by the public,” said Mosquera. “He or she is also still subject to cross examination, with access for the judge to view the demeanor of the victim.”
But others argue that remote testimony is not the same as a face-to-face confrontation. Those who back the bill say they were given legal guidance when considering the measure, and it was cleared.
Mosquera says the law encourages victims to feel safe and secure enough to report the crimes to law enforcement.
Advocates for domestic violence victims say that while remote testimony is not an urgent policy issue, the law could be helpful and serve as one more “tool” for victims to use.
New Jersey in 2015 had 61,659 reports of domestic violence, down from 2014 when there were 62,000 cases. Data shows that arrests were made in fewer than one third of cases.