The Intention behind CSL and Megan’s Law

By Maynard & Sumner, LLC of Maynard & Sumner, LLC posted in Megan’s Law on Friday, October 26, 2012.

On October 22, 2012, the New Jersey Supreme Court made yet another important decision in defining the difference between Megan’s Law and Community Supervision for Life / Parole Supervision for Life. An ex-New York City cop, and resident of New Jersey, was convicted of sexual assault in 2000. At the time of his sentencing, he was sentenced to 3 years probation and Megan’s Law registration, among other penalties, fines, etc. The ex-cop completed the terms of his sentence in 2003. In 2007, the New Jersey State Parole Board notified the trial court that the ex-cop should also have been sentenced to community supervision for life due to the nature of the crime under which he was convicted. In fact, it was illegal not to sentence the defendant to CSL originally. In 2008, the trial court amended the judgment of conviction to include a sentence of Community Supervision for Life.

In response, the ex-cop filed for post-conviction relief (PCR), arguing that the amended sentence was unconstitutional as it violated his protection from double jeopardy under the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution and Article 1, paragraph 11 of the New Jersey Constitution. The NJ Supreme Court ruled that the amended judgment was unconstitutional because it violated the constitutional protection against double jeopardy.

Double jeopardy can be defined as follows:

  1. Prosecuting a defendant for the same offense after an acquittal (dismissal);
  2. Prosecuting a defendant for the same offense after a conviction; or
  3. Imposing on a defendant multiple punishments for the same offense.

In making its decision, the Supreme Court had to determine whether Community Supervision for Life is remedial or punitive in nature. It determined that CSL is punitive. Therefore, the amended judgment would be a case of double jeopardy because it was imposed after the defendant had finished his original sentence. The Court stated that the defendant has a legitimate expectation of the finality of his sentence.

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