New Jersey municipalities should be aware that the new law requiring traffic patrol vehicles to be equipped with cameras is now in effect. The new mandate applies to any vehicle acquired on or after March 1, 2015.
The new legislation, which was signed last fall by Gov. Chris Christie, will ultimately require all police vehicles to be equipped with mobile video recording systems. Under N.J.S.A. § 40A:14-118.1, every new or used municipal police vehicle purchased, leased, or otherwise acquired on or after March 1, 2015, that is primarily used for traffic stops must be equipped with a mobile video recording system. Currently, no other states require such comprehensive use of such a recording system.
The law defines a “mobile video recording system” as a device or system installed or used in a police vehicle or worn or otherwise used by an officer that electronically records visual images depicting activities that take place during a motor vehicle stop or other law enforcement action. Accordingly, municipalities have the option of equipping their vehicles or the officers that operate them.
To avoid the prohibition against unfunded mandates, the law also raises the surcharge imposed on individuals convicted of driving while intoxicated. The additional $25 surcharge will be payable to the State, county, or municipal entity that issued the summons. The statute further stipulates that the increased amounts payable to municipalities from the surcharge must be used for the cost of equipping police vehicles with mobile video recording systems.
The law also directed the Attorney General to adopt regulations intended to provide guidance to municipalities regarding their new obligations. However, no rules have been proposed yet.
To help municipalities comply with the law and avoid costly lawsuits, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities has requested guidance from the Attorney General regarding: 1) when these devices must start and stop recording; 2) how these recordings will be treated under OPRA; 3) privacy concerns regarding the recording of third parties; and 4) how this data will be stored or archived. Clearly, a standardized procedure for utilizing the cameras and footage will be a concern. Ultimately, however, the video documentation of traffic stops should prove beneficial to both the Police Officer as well as the general public.
For more information about the new law or the legal issues involved, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Government Law Group.