MEGAN’S LAW: THE SEX-OFFENDER REGISTRY IN NEW JERSEY
In 1994, the Registration and Community Notification Laws (RCNL), more commonly known as Megan’s Law, was enacted in response to the public’s demand for more information on the identity and residence of previously convicted sex offenders who are considered a possible threat to the safety of others in the community.
Megan’s Law created a state registry of sex offenders, a similar Internet registry and a community notification procedure to alert the public when state officials deem it necessary for public safety.
The law requires continual registration from people convicted of sex offenses and can severely limit their housing, educational and employment opportunities. However, for some people, termination of the registration obligation may be possible.
What Megan’s Law Requires
Megan’s Law requires a person convicted of a sex offense to register with the chief law enforcement officer of the city or town in which the person will reside. The person must register as soon as he or she is released from confinement or placed under supervision in the community on probation, parole, furlough, work release or a similar program.
Furthermore, a sex offender also must verify his or her address with the law enforcement agency with which he or she is registered every 90 days.
If the person moves, he or she must notify both the currently-registered law enforcement agency as well as the appropriate law enforcement agency in the new area. The person must register with the new law enforcement agency no less than 10 days before he or she moves into the new address.
Additionally, a sex offender who moves to or returns to New Jersey from another state is also required to register, regardless of where his or her conviction or offense occurred.
To Whom Megan’s Law Applies
A person who has been convicted, adjudicated delinquent or found not guilty by reason of insanity for commission of a sex offense or other qualifying offense must register as required by Megan’s Law. Qualifying offenses include:
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated criminal sexual contact
- Kidnapping with a related or underlying sexual offense
- Endangering the welfare of child by engaging in sexual conduct with a minor
- Luring or enticing a minor
- Criminal restraint or false imprisonment of a minor who is not the person’s child
Tier Classification and Community Notification
According to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, county prosecutors have the responsibility of determining a person’s risk of committing another sex offense and placing that person in one of three tiers of classification. During trial proceedings, a judge confirms or denies the prosecutor’s recommendation. The classifications are:
- Tier One: low risk of re-offense
- Tier Two: moderate risk of re-offense
- Tier Three: high risk of re-offense
When a person’s risk of re-offense is designated as moderate or high, community notification is provided to organizations in the community deemed likely to encounter the person.
The Sex Offender Registry Website
For people designated as having moderate or high risks of re-offending, much of their registration information is reproduced on New Jersey’s sex offender registry website. Information available on the website includes:
- The person’s name and address
- A physical description of the person as well as a picture
- Any aliases used
- A brief description of the convicted offense, including the date and location
- The make, model, color, year and license plate number of any vehicle operated by the person
The law prohibits the use of registry information to threaten, intimidate or harass another person. Registry information also may not be used to deny insurance, loans, scholarships or housing accommodations. However, many registered sex offenders find the collateral consequences of their convictions severely restrict their opportunities for employment and housing, despite these prohibitions.
Terminating the Registration Obligation
In some cases, a person required to register under Megan’s Law may seek relief by petitioning the Superior Court of New Jersey to terminate his or her registration obligation. The court may terminate the registration obligation if it determines that two requirements are met. The requirements are:
- The person has not committed an offense within 15 years after his or her conviction or release from a correctional facility, whichever is later.
- The person is not likely to pose a threat to the safety of others.
In addition, a person may appeal the trial court’s tier classification as well as the scope and means of community notification. By achieving a lower tier classification, a person may experience fewer impediments in his or her life.
If you have been charged with, convicted of or are under investigation for a sex offense, promptly contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your area. An attorney experienced in handling sex offense cases can help you present your case in the best way possible and work to lessen the impact of the allegations against you.
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