A New Jersey bill aimed at preventing state agencies from placing evacuated families near registered sex offenders recently passed both houses in the New Jersey legislature. However if the bill is signed and put into effect, it may inadvertently further limit the living options available to New Jersey registered sex offenders
Specifically, Assembly Bill No. 2131 will give the Department of Human Services and county and municipal welfare agencies access to New Jersey’s sex offender registry for the “exclusive use in placing homeless families and persons in emergency shelters, which include but are not limited to, hotels and motels.”
The recent activity regarding the bill comes on the heels of a South Jersey Times story that reported an instance in which a family forced to evacuate their home spent two weeks staying in a motel that also happened to house a registered sex offender. According to the report, the sex offender had registered the motel as his home to police.
Lawmakers hope AB2131 will help prevent similar situations in the future, especially given the large number of evacuated New Jersey families still living in motels and hotels following Superstorm Sandy.
However as the recent South Jersey Times article notes, there are several instances in New Jersey in which registered sex offenders call motels home – possibly due to the fact that severe living restrictions or limited means give them no other choice.
Currently, registered sex offenders not only have to report where they live to local law enforcement but are also limited in where they are permitted to live. For instance, many cities have local laws and ordinances that restrict how close sex offenders can live within certain designated areas – which often makes finding a residence very difficult.
If AB2131 goes into effect, motel owners may be less likely to rent to registered sex offenders if they know state welfare agencies may be monitoring them in emergency situations or when housing the homeless – making the often difficult process of finding a home even more complicated for several registered sex offenders.
This bill illustrates the lifelong consequences of a New Jersey sex crime conviction. Not only must they live with the constant stigma of their conviction, but also years of monitoring and living restrictions. Accordingly, if you have been accused of a sex crime in New Jersey, it is imperative to speak with an experienced sex crime defense attorney to ensure your rights are protected.