On June 2, 2014, Governor Christie enacted the Jessica Lunsford Act, also known as “Jessica’s Law”; making New Jersey the 46th state in the nation to adopt this act. The Jessica Lunsford Act (Assembly Bill No.892/Senate Bill No.215) quickly gained support within the NJ Assembly and Senate as it aims to dissuade individuals from committing acts of aggravated sexual assault against children under the age of thirteen. Its primary method of deterrence relies on significantly increasing the penalties for the crime of first-degree aggravated sexual assault against a minor under 13 years of age, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2A(1).
The following amendments have been made:
- Upgrades penalty from 10-20 years imprisonment to a “specific term of years which shall be fixed by the court and shall be between 25 years to life imprisonment, of which the person shall serve 25 years before being eligible for parole, unless a longer term of parole ineligibility is otherwise provided.”
- The prosecutor may negotiate a plea agreement, in consideration of the interest of the victim, in which sentence of imprisonment is not less than 15 years, during which defendant shall not be eligible for parole.
- The court may not sentence defendant to a lesser term of imprisonment or parole ineligibility than that expressly provided in the plea agreement.
Following completion of this sentence, an offender will be required to register as a sex offender pursuant to Megan’s Law, as well as be subject to Parole Supervision for Life (PSL). Individuals convicted of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-A(1) are required to register life, and are procedurally barred from petitioning to terminate their sex offender status.
The Jessica Lunsford Act was named after a nine-year-old Florida resident who was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender in 2005. Florida adopted legislation imposing a mandatory term of imprisonment of 25 years for sex crimes against children and required satellite (GPS) monitoring of sex offenders. In 2007, New Jersey enacted a statute similar to the Florida enactment that provides for satellite monitoring to track the location of sex offenders after release.
The Jessica Lunsford Act was made effective immediately.