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Danielsen Bill To Protect Historic Sites Gains Assembly Approval

State Assemblyman Joe Danielsen is the co-sponsor of a bill that recently won state Assembly approval. (File photo)

Legislation co-sponsored by state Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-17), designed to preserve the integrity of the state’s historic sites, was approved by the Assembly on Jan. 23.

Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20) co-sponsored the bill with Danielsen.

“Historic sites across this state tell the story not only of New Jersey, but also of the United States of America,” Danielsen said in a press release about the bill. “Those who destroy these properties should face a penalty commensurate with the crime of disrespecting this nation’s history.”

The bill, A-228, would amend current law to make it a 3rd Degree crime to “knowingly damage or tamper with a historic building, monument or structure that meets the criteria for, or has been determined to be potentially eligible for, inclusion in the New Jersey Register of Historic Places or is formally recognized by a county or municipality as having historic interest,” according to the release. A 3rd Degree crime is punishable by three to five years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $15,000 or both.

“The preservation of historic sites helps us learn about the past so that we can better understand the present and plan for the future,” Holley said in the release. “So much of our identity as a country is in historic sites. We have a duty to protect them.”

To be eligible for listing on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places, a property must:

  • Be at least 50 years old, unless it is exceptionally important;
  • Be historically or architecturally significant on the national, state or local level; and
  • Possess “integrity” from the period during which it earned its significance. Integrity can be defined as a high degree of retention of character-defining features that permits a property to convey a strong sense of its historic qualities.

Under current law, criminal mischief generally is a crime of the third degree if it results in $2,000 or more in damages. If the mischief results in less than $2,000 but more than $500 in damages, it is a crime of the fourth degree, punishable by up to 18 months’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000 or both. Mischief resulting in less than a $500 loss is a disorderly persons offense, punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.

Certain acts of criminal mischief, however, such as tampering with a grave or causing substantial interruption of a public utility, are specified in state statute as third degree crimes.

The measure, which gained unanimous Assembly approval, now awaits Senate consideration.

 

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