TRENTON - A New Jersey Assembly committee approved a bill Thursday allowing some domestic-violence victims to testify remotely on camera, despite questions over whether the measure is constitutional.
Sandy Clark, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women, said the legislation might encourage some victims to participate in the prosecution of their attackers.
Some lawmakers questioned whether the measure would violate the provision in the Constitution allowing suspects to confront their accusers. The Democratic-led panel voted to advance the bill while the constitutional question is researched.
Thursday marked the bill's first hearing. There is no companion bill in the Senate.
Assemblyman John McKeon (D., Essex), who voted yes, said the bill would not prohibit lawyers and judges from questioning a witness but would let them do so via closed-circuit television, which may make it easier for some victims to agree to testify.
The panel was told that child victims of sexual assault are the only ones now allowed to give videotaped testimony.
The committee postponed voting on a domestic-violence bill that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to obtain a restraining order or be served with one. The law currently applies only to adults.
The bill is expected to come up again this fall. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate but has not advanced.