Amended bill delivers break to first-time ‘porch pirates’
TRENTON — "Porch pirates" face stiffer criminal penalties, though not the first time they’re caught, under one of many bills getting a last-minute push as the legislative session ends Tuesday.
Monday’s Senate and Assembly voting sessions are the last of the two-year cycle, and the so-called porch pirates bill is one of around 240 pieces of legislation scheduled for votes – many of them far more well-known, including possible limits on flavored vapes, single-use plastic bags and religious exemptions to mandatory vaccination rules.
The bill boosting penalties for stealing delivered packages had been stalled in the Senate since unanimously passing the Assembly last March but finally budged last week after it was amended to give a break to first-time offenders.
The bill, A5072/S2496, upgrades penalties for porch pirates one grade higher on the criminal charges scale. For instance, if the value of what’s stolen is under $200, it would be a fourth-degree crime, not a disorderly persons offense.
Such crimes carry potential fines up to $10,000 and 18 months in prison. But Assemblyman Rob Karibinchak agreed to limit penalties to restitution and up to 10 days of community service for first offenses, keeping it a disorderly persons offense, to get it through the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“So they’re not going to be burdened with a criminal offense coming out of the box,” said Karibinchak, D-Middlesex.
“Obviously, if there’s a second offense or a third offense, obviously we’re leaving it up to the judge’s discretion that there’ll still be restitution and community service and then a fourth-degree crime that follows that,” he said.
With the significant amendments, the porch pirates bill doesn’t appear to enjoy quite the same level of support it had. After passing 78-0 in the Assembly last March, it passed 8-2 with one abstention in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“This at least gives some level of affordable restitution that if this gets stolen that there is some way to recoup what you lost,” Karibinchak said.
Bills that aren’t passed by noon Tuesday expire with the end of the two-year legislative session and would have to start the process from the beginning in the new term.