Since its inception in 1994, New Jersey’s Megan’s Law has been used to register and track countless individuals convicted of certain sex crimes. However, some believe that Megan’s Law may go too far when it comes to the registration of a particular group of offenders – namely, teenagers convicted of sex crimes following consensual sexual acts with a partner below the legal age of consent.
Interestingly, a New Jersey bill was introduced earlier this month that would alleviate many of these concerns. If passed, the bill would eliminate sex offender registration under New Jersey’s Megan’s Law in instances in which a sex crime conviction resulted because the age of one of the individuals prevented him or her from giving legal consent, even though practically speaking, he or she actually assented to the sexual act.
Sex offender registration under New Jersey’s Megan’s Law
Current New Jersey law stipulates that people in certain age groups are unable to give lawful consent for sexual acts. For instance, when a person under the age of 16, but older than 13, has intercourse with another who is at least four years older, the older individual is strictly liable for sexual assault – it makes no difference in New Jersey if the younger individual assented to the sexual act.
Consequently, when teenagers in these age groups decide to engage in consensual sex – for example, a 14-year-old high school freshman and an 18-year-old senior – the older of the two may be forced to register as a sex offender in New Jersey if charged and convicted under the law.
However, if the recently introduced New Jersey bill – otherwise known asAssembly Bill 4039 – ever becomes law, a person convicted of sexual assault will no longer have to register as a sex offender under New Jersey’s Megan’s Law if the sexual intercourse in question was consensual, but because of the age of the younger person, he or she was not capable of giving lawful consent.
Seek assistance if facing New Jersey sex crime charges
It remains to be seen whether this recently introduced bill will gain any traction in the New Jersey legislature – meaning current laws will likely remain in place for the immediate future – but at least it has started a discussion on whether it is necessary to make teenagers register as sex offenders even though they engaged in consensual acts.
Given the laws currently in effect, it is imperative to contact an experienced sex crime defense attorney as soon as possible if you have been accused of committing a sex crime. A knowledgeable attorney can help protect your rights and assist in your defense.