Legislation Proposed to Reinstate Penalties for Underage Alcohol and Cannabis Possession in New Jersey

NEW JERSEY: Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) has put forth a new bill aimed at reintroducing penalties for underage possession and consumption of alcohol and cannabis. The legislation seeks to address a perceived gap in the law that was created when cannabis was legalized in the state in 2020, eliminating penalties for underage use and possession of both substances.

Senator O’Scanlon expressed his concerns, stating, “When New Jersey residents voted to legalize cannabis in 2020, it was with the understanding that it would remain illegal for individuals under the age of 21. However, when legislation was later enacted to formalize cannabis legalization, which I opposed due to significant flaws in the bill, it inadvertently removed penalties for underage use and possession of not just cannabis, but alcohol as well.”

Presently, individuals under the age of 21 caught with alcohol or cannabis products face a written warning from law enforcement, and if the person is a minor, their parents are notified of the violation. On a third offense, individuals receive a referral for community services, but declining these services does not incur any penalties.

Senator O’Scanlon noted a rise in the illegal use of alcohol and cannabis by young people since the vote to legalize cannabis. He also highlighted the emergence of rowdy pop-up beach parties, which have become increasingly uncontrollable. The proposed legislation aims to send a clear message that underage consumption of alcohol and cannabis remains illegal, and those who violate the law will be held accountable. It seeks to reinstate the penalties for underage drinking and cannabis use, which were previously effective in addressing the problems seen today.

Furthermore, the existing law prohibits law enforcement officers from searching underage individuals based solely on the odor of alcohol or cannabis. This restriction allows individuals to conceal these substances in pockets or backpacks until officers leave, effectively avoiding confiscation. However, officers who violate the search prohibition can face serious criminal charges and significant prison time.

Senator O’Scanlon’s bill, S-3973, proposes amendments to revoke the existing written warning system and reinstate underage consumption and possession of alcohol and cannabis as disorderly person offenses. Violators would face a fine of no less than $500. The bill also grants officers the authority to conduct searches when appropriate, without fear of criminal prosecution.

Under the proposed legislation, the court may also require offenders to attend educational or treatment programs authorized by the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services. This provision aims to facilitate access to necessary support and assistance for individuals struggling with substance abuse.

The penalties for underage alcohol use and possession were in effect for many years prior to the legalization of cannabis. The removal of these penalties has had a clear negative impact on public safety and quality of life in the state.

“When rowdy, intoxicated teens are allowed to engage in lawlessness, as we have witnessed in our shore towns, it negatively affects residents, tourists, and business owners,” added Senator O’Scanlon. “We need to shift our focus away from impeding routine police work and redirect it towards holding young people accountable for the harm they cause when they are inebriated in public or behind the wheel. This bill would restore authority to the police to perform their duties while discouraging young individuals from endangering themselves and the communities where they gather.”

Stay Safe in the Sun: Protecting Yourself During New Jersey’s Summer Season

NEW JERSEY — As the warm summer season approaches, residents of the Garden State are eagerly anticipating outdoor activities and leisurely days under the sun. However, it is essential to approach this time of year with caution, as summer poses potential risks and dangers that demand our attention.

One of the primary concerns during the summer months is sun exposure. Whether you’re lounging on the beach or engaging in outdoor sports, it’s crucial to take measures to protect your eyes and skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Skin cancer is a prevalent risk, primarily caused by prolonged exposure to the sun or even tanning beds. To minimize this risk, it is advised to apply sunscreen with a high SPF, wear protective clothing, and seek shade during peak sun hours.

Moreover, prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to a condition known as photokeratitis. This painful and temporary condition affects the corneas of the eyes, similar to a sunburn on the skin. It occurs as a result of exposure to intense UV rays. It’s essential to wear sunglasses with UV protection and consider a wide-brimmed hat to shield your eyes from excessive sunlight.

Furthermore, extensive exposure to UV radiation can contribute to the development of eye diseases such as macular degeneration or cataracts. These conditions can lead to vision impairment or even blindness in severe cases. To safeguard your eyes, it is crucial to wear sunglasses that offer proper UV protection and consult with an eye care professional for regular check-ups.

As we embark on the summer season in New Jersey, it is important to prioritize our health and safety. By taking simple precautions like wearing sunscreen, protective clothing, sunglasses, and seeking shade when needed, we can enjoy the pleasures of summer while minimizing potential risks. Let us embrace this time of year responsibly and make lasting memories without compromising our well-bein

Driver from Mount Vernon, New York Seriously Injured in Attempted Motor Vehicle Stop on New Jersey Turnpike

BORDENTOWN, NJ – In a dramatic turn of events on the New Jersey Turnpike in Bordentown, a driver from Mount Vernon, New York was left seriously injured after attempting to flee from a state police motor vehicle stop.

The incident unfolded at approximately 10:35 a.m. on the outer roadway of the northbound NJ Turnpike near milepost 54.2. A vigilant state trooper noticed a stopped Honda Accord on the shoulder of the turnpike and approached the vehicle to investigate, according to a spokesperson for the New Jersey State Police.

However, as the trooper approached, the driver of the Honda Accord suddenly accelerated and sped off in a northbound direction along the outer roadway. The reckless escape maneuver led the fleeing vehicle to veer across the northbound inner roadway, resulting in a collision with the passenger side of a Honda Odyssey.

The impact forced the Honda Odyssey to collide with the concrete median, causing minor injuries to all five occupants of the vehicle, as confirmed by state police. The driver of the Honda Accord, a 49-year-old individual, suffered “serious injuries” as a consequence of the crash.

To ensure the safety of all motorists and facilitate the necessary investigations, the left lane of the northbound inner roadway was closed for approximately three hours, leading to “moderate” traffic congestion, as reported by state police.

The circumstances surrounding the attempted motor vehicle stop and subsequent collision remain under investigation. Authorities are working diligently to uncover the details of the incident and determine the factors that led to the driver’s decision to evade the state trooper.

As the affected individuals recover from their injuries, this alarming event serves as a reminder of the risks involved in attempting to flee from law enforcement. The New Jersey State Police continue to emphasize the importance of compliance and cooperation during motor vehicle stops to ensure the safety of both drivers and officers on the road.

Fatal Crash on Bridgeton Pike in Harrison Township Claims the Life of Elderly Driver

HARRISON TOWNSHIP, NJ – Tragedy struck on Wednesday morning, June 14, when a motor vehicle crash occurred on Bridgeton Pike in Harrison Township. The Harrison Township Police Department promptly responded to the incident, which took place at around 8:35 a.m. Authorities have since conducted an investigation to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the collision.

According to the police report, the accident involved two vehicles. A 2012 Ford Fiesta, driven by a resident of Elk Township, was heading southbound on Bridgeton Pike, also known as State Highway 77. For reasons still under investigation, the Ford Fiesta unexpectedly swerved into the northbound lane, colliding with a 2023 Ford F-150. The F-150 was being operated by a Mullica Hill resident at the time of the crash.

As a result of the impact, Bridgeton Pike was temporarily closed off to traffic between Commissioners and Fislerville Roads for approximately three hours. Authorities worked diligently to ensure the safety of motorists and manage the aftermath of the collision.

Tragically, the driver of the Ford Fiesta, identified as 75-year-old Georgette Hayes, did not survive the crash. She was transported to Inspira Medical Center of Mullica Hill, where medical professionals pronounced her deceased. The occupants of the Ford F-150 sustained injuries but were fortunate enough to have non-life-threatening conditions. They, too, were taken to Inspira Medical Center of Mullica Hill for treatment.

Patrolman Thomas Watts and Sergeant Kurt Pflugfelder have been assigned to lead the ongoing investigation into the incident. Additionally, multiple agencies have been lending their support to ensure a thorough examination of the crash. These include the Mantua Township Police, Elk Township Police, Gloucester County EMS, Harrison Township Fire District, and the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT).

As authorities delve deeper into the details of this tragic event, our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of Georgette Hayes. The local community is left mourning the loss of a fellow resident, emphasizing the importance of road safety awareness and the need for cautious driving.

Fare Changes Ahead: Garden State Parkway’s 75-Cent Toll May Soon Disappear

Author: Mike Brant

In a development that has stirred mixed emotions among motorists, it seems that change is on the horizon for New Jersey’s toll roads. Specifically, drivers on the Garden State Parkway will bid farewell to the long-standing 75-cent toll—an alteration that reflects an ongoing trend, one that hasn’t necessarily been met with open arms.

Before delving into the details, it’s important to note that this transformation has nothing to do with speed limits. While many drivers may yearn for a higher speed limit on the Garden State Parkway, even reaching a speedy 75 mph, the reality is quite different. Presently, there are already numerous drivers who exceed the 65 mph limit, despite its imposition for the majority of the highway.

So, if not speed, what exactly is the cause for this anticipated change? It may not be immediately apparent, but upon realization, it becomes somewhat disheartening.

For the sake of discussion, let’s temporarily set aside any considerations of E-ZPass discounts and focus solely on cash payments—the very method highlighted on toll signs as we approach our destinations.

A careful observation of on-ramp and off-ramp tolls reveals that certain toll booths charge a meager 75 cents per vehicle. Regrettably, this may soon become a thing of the past.

Recently, toll hikes were announced for New Jersey’s toll roads, including the Garden State Parkway. Consequently, traversing the same roadway will come at a higher price.

What makes the current 75-cent fare significant is its status as the lowest toll on the Garden State Parkway, barring any E-ZPass discounts. However, as we venture into 2024, we inch closer to the inevitable reality of the minimum fare increasing to one dollar.

Moreover, one can’t help but wonder about the future of E-ZPass discounts. As cash lanes continue to dwindle in numbers over the years, it becomes increasingly clear that electronic toll payment systems are steadily becoming the norm. While E-ZPass currently offers modest concessions, will these discounts remain in place once it becomes the sole means of paying tolls on New Jersey’s toll roads?

The situation echoes the small discount granted for using tokens as a form of payment—a nod to the past that prompts a reflection on how much cheaper tolls once were.

As we bid adieu to the 75-cent toll on the Garden State Parkway, changes are underway that may reshape the landscape of toll collection. Whether these alterations will be met with acceptance or resistance remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: the toll road experience in New Jersey is entering a new chapter.

Attorney General Platkin and Division of Highway Traffic Safety Urge Safe Driving During the “101 Days of Summer”

TRENTON–With summer on the horizon, Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division of Highway Traffic Safety (HTS) are emphasizing the importance of safe driving for all residents and visitors of New Jersey during this bustling season.

As the weather turns beautiful and the state’s abundant entertainment and recreational offerings beckon, the summer months witness a surge in travel. This increase in traffic volume is why the period between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day has earned the moniker “101 Days of Summer” — a time when travel is at its busiest but also its most perilous.

“From our iconic shoreline to our charming downtowns and other outdoor destinations, there’s no better place to savor summer than New Jersey,” stated Attorney General Platkin. “With thousands of residents and visitors taking to the roads this season, we want to remind everyone about the perils of unsafe driving through our comprehensive ‘101 Days of Summer’ campaigns. Whether it’s buckling up, adhering to safe speeds, or never driving under the influence, New Jerseyans should know that safety is our top priority.”

Over the next three months, HTS will collaborate with local, county, state, and national law enforcement and traffic safety partners to mitigate the risks associated with summer travel, aiming to prevent accidents and save lives. The “101 Days of Summer” Traffic Safety Campaign will entail heightened enforcement efforts on the state’s extensive network of roads and highways.

“Behind every steering wheel, a choice lies—whether to protect lives or endanger them,” expressed Michael J. Rizol Jr., Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “Throughout the ‘101 Days of Summer,’ always bear in mind that impaired driving, speeding, and neglecting seatbelts have no place on the road to safety. As you embark on your summer adventures, never forget the weight of your decisions when you get behind the wheel, the lives at stake, and the responsibility you carry.”

Additionally, three crucial public messaging campaigns will run throughout the summer, each aimed at educating the public about critical traffic safety issues.

From May to June, nearly $800,000 in HTS grant funding will be utilized to mobilize law enforcement agencies for the “Click It or Ticket” campaign across New Jersey, targeting drivers and passengers who fail to buckle up.

In July, HTS will partner with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a new speed prevention campaign. With nationwide speeding-related fatalities experiencing a 17% increase in recent years, this initiative will raise awareness about the dangers of speeding and the legal consequences of exceeding speed limits.

Finally, from August to September, the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement mobilization will crack down on motorists who choose to endanger themselves and others by driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

Headline: Bug-Swatting Mishap Leads to New Jersey Crash, Prompting Safety Reminders

Location: Hackettstown, New Jersey

In a peculiar turn of events, a 19-year-old driver’s attempt to swat away a bug while behind the wheel resulted in a collision on Sunday afternoon, as reported by the Hackettstown police department. The incident occurred on Route 57 near Nikitin Way, drawing attention to the dangers of distracted driving.

According to authorities, the young man from Washington Township was traveling eastbound on Route 57 in his 2014 Tesla when a persistent bug began buzzing around his face. In a moment of instinctive reaction, he made an ill-fated attempt to remove the insect, causing him to lose control of the vehicle. The Tesla subsequently collided with the rear end of a 2017 Honda being driven by a 19-year-old woman, also from Washington Township.

The impact of the crash propelled the woman’s car into a guardrail, adding to the extent of the damage. Fortunately, the male driver’s injuries were determined to be non-life-threatening, and he declined medical treatment at the scene. The police issued him a summons for careless driving, emphasizing the importance of maintaining focus while operating a vehicle.

No details were provided regarding potential injuries sustained by the female driver. However, this unusual incident prompted the Hackettstown Police Department to release a series of safety tips for drivers who encounter similar situations. They advise motorists to prioritize road awareness and keep both hands on the wheel, particularly in heavy traffic. Instead of reacting hastily, drivers are encouraged to gradually reduce their speed, employing hazard lights if necessary. Additionally, if circumstances permit, pulling over and dealing with the bug distraction when the vehicle is stationary is recommended.

This “bug-induced” crash serves as a cautionary tale, reminding drivers to remain vigilant and avoid distractions while navigating the roads. By prioritizing safety and staying focused, motorists can help ensure the well-being of themselves and others sharing the roadways.

New York State Trooper Accused of Issuing False Traffic Tickets, Including to Deceased Individuals

YORKTOWN, NEW YORK – In a shocking revelation, a New York State trooper has been arrested and charged with issuing fraudulent traffic tickets to multiple individuals, even including someone who had already passed away. The accused, identified as Edward Longo, 34, from Yorktown, stands accused of flagrantly issuing 32 counterfeit traffic tickets and supporting depositions without actually pulling over or witnessing any alleged traffic violations. The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office disclosed these disturbing details in a recent news release.

Longo’s arrest, which transpired on January 31, has sent shockwaves through the law enforcement community. Authorities had previously placed him on administrative leave back in November, and the subsequent investigation led to the discovery of his alleged misconduct. The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office wasted no time in bringing Longo to justice, and he now faces an array of charges relating to the counterfeit tickets. These charges include 32 felony counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, as well as eight counts of official misconduct, which constitutes a misdemeanor offense, according to official sources.

Investigators have determined that Longo, on eight separate occasions spanning from May to October 2022, purportedly issued the fabricated tickets and supporting depositions. In New York, a supporting deposition serves as a document that provides additional information concerning a traffic violation resulting in a citation. Astonishingly, Longo submitted these falsified tickets and depositions to his assigned state police barracks, specifically the New York State Police Troop K Hawthrone in Mount Pleasant, as outlined in the news release.

The New York State Police, in collaboration with the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, promptly launched a criminal investigation upon learning of the potential scheme involving falsified traffic tickets by one of their own members. “Integrity is one of our core values, and we hold our members to the highest standards,” stated a spokesperson for the state police in a written statement provided to McClatchy News on February 2. This swift action demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement agencies to maintaining trust and upholding the principles that underpin their duties.

Meanwhile, Longo’s attorney has yet to respond to media inquiries regarding the allegations. McClatchy News reached out to the attorney on February 2, but as of now, no comment has been received.

As of February 3, Longo has been suspended from duty pending further investigation. The town of Yorktown, where Longo resides, lies approximately 45 miles north of New York City. The gravity of the charges against the accused trooper underscores the significance of upholding the integrity of the law enforcement profession, as officials continue their efforts to ensure justice prevails in this disconcerting case.

The Growing Threat of Counterfeit Car Tags: Undermining Public Safety and Empowering Criminals

Infringing upon public safety, the circulation of counterfeit, expired, and concealed license plates has emerged as a growing concern. While evading traffic violations remains a motivating factor, this illicit practice has taken on a more menacing dimension, attracting potential criminals to its allure.

A disconcerting scenario unfolds for pedestrians traversing the intersection of Lincoln Drive and McCallum Street, where a fleeting moment of recklessness can prove disastrous. Oblivious to the urgency of those on foot, speeding vehicles negotiate the corner, hurtling southbound with audacious abandon. The gravity of this issue cannot be overstated, as unsuspecting individuals are left with no choice but to hasten their steps, keenly aware of the lurking danger.

Public safety, a cornerstone of societal well-being, demands immediate attention in the face of such perilous circumstances. Recognizing the imminent threats posed by fraudulent, expired, and obscured license plates, proactive measures must be taken to safeguard the community. The ramifications of complacency are too grave to ignore, potentially enabling criminals to exploit this vulnerability for their own nefarious purposes.

As concerned citizens, it is our collective responsibility to address this issue head-on. Raising awareness among the general public about the inherent risks associated with the proliferation of fake license plates is a crucial first step. Additionally, law enforcement agencies and regulatory bodies must collaborate to enhance enforcement strategies, employing technological advancements and stringent monitoring protocols to detect and apprehend those responsible.

Now, more than ever, the preservation of public safety demands a unified effort. By unmasking the threat posed by counterfeit, expired, and obscured car tags, we can collectively strive towards a safer and more secure New Jersey.

Multiple Women Experience Fentanyl Overdoses at New Jersey Mall, Prompting Swift Emergency Response

HACKENSACK, N.J. – In a distressing turn of events, law enforcement officials have reported that five female employees at a New Jersey mall had to be resuscitated on Wednesday after inadvertently ingesting and overdosing on fentanyl.

On Wednesday evening, the Hackensack Police Department, in conjunction with fire officials and emergency medical services, swiftly responded to an emergency call at the Shops at Riverside, where multiple individuals were reported to have suffered from apparent drug overdoses.

While waiting for the arrival of first responders, Good Samaritans utilized life-saving equipment to assist the victims. Upon their arrival, the responders promptly administered naloxone, a medication used to counteract the effects of opioid overdose.

“They did exactly what they were trained to do and were instrumental in saving lives, along with the civilians present at the scene,” remarked Capt. Mike Antista of the Hackensack Police Department.

Authorities have confirmed that the five female mall employees, ranging in age from 29 to 41, had consumed fentanyl and subsequently lost consciousness.

“It is important to note that this incident was not a random occurrence within the mall. The stores within the mall remain safe, and there is no imminent danger to the general public,” assured Antista.

Four of the five women were transported to Hackensack University Medical Center for further medical attention, while one victim declined medical aid, according to officials.

It is suspected that the women were unaware that the drugs they consumed had been laced with fentanyl.

“This is a problem we are witnessing nationwide. While we refer to it as overdoses, it is essentially poisoning. Many of the victims are unknowingly ingesting substances without being fully aware of their composition,” explained police director Ray Guidetti.

A nearby resident revealed that she had heard reports of drug-related activities taking place in specific areas of the mall.

“The lower levels of the mall are unfortunately known for a significant amount of drug use. It’s an area frequented by individuals engaged in such activities. The fact that Narcan had to be administered to all of them is truly alarming,” shared concerned resident Brianna Bruce.

The evidence collected at the scene is currently undergoing laboratory testing for further analysis and investigation.

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