On April 28, 2011, the New Jersey state senate unanimously passed S837, a bill to further restrict where convicted sex offenders can reside. Should the bill become law, it will grant New Jersey municipalities the authority to create 500-foot “buffer zones” surrounding child-friendly sites like schools, daycare centers, playgrounds and churches. This would seriously curtail the housing options for any convicted sex offenders living in the area, and could effectively put entire towns off limits for some.

This bill is unique in that it targets ALL convicted sex offenders, including those who committed crimes while juveniles and those who have previously served their full sentence. This bill would supplant restrictions already in place with Megan’s Law, the statute requiring that all convicted sex offenders register with law enforcement agencies in their chosen locale and add their name to a statewide registry that is available to the public.

New Jersey has previously attempted to limit housing options for sex offenders, in a 2006 law that was struck down as unconstitutional by the New Jersey Supreme Court. A similar law was just struck down in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, that had been on the books since 2005. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that the countywide ordinance that prevented convicted sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of parks, schools and daycare centers was unduly restrictive and interfered with the express purpose of laws designed to track and rehabilitate sex offenders.

Senate bill 837 is less restrictive than the recently overturned Pennsylvania law, but it would still put an onerous burden on convicted sex offenders who are trying to turn their lives around. Even if the law doesn’t pass, though, sex crime convictions can have lifelong consequences like sex offender registration and public stigma.

Even if a person accused of a sex offense is convicted, there are steps that can be taken to fight an unjust conviction, or to represent the convicted person’s legal interests with the many post-conviction issues that arise; such as Megan’s Law tier-modification, conditions of CSL or PSL, or defense of alleged violations of Megan’s Law and PSL or CSL. It is important to note that many attorneys will defend a person accused of a sex crime; however, very few attorneys concentrate their practice on assisting sex offenders with their post-conviction matters.

If you have been charged with any type of sex crime, seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney that has a practice concentration in sex crimes, Megan’s Law, and PSL or CSL matters to begin protecting your rights and fighting for your freedom.

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