15 Pitfalls to a Sex Offense Plea (Including Megan’s Law)
In the State of New Jersey, a sex offense plea carries significant consequences. At the Maynard Law Office, LLC law firm, we have spoken to a countless number of individuals who are seeking to modify their sex offense plea because of the unforeseen collateral consequences related to sex offender registration. Many defendants are lured into taking sex crime plea deals with the promise of no time in a New Jersey State Prison. For those who are charged with a sex crime, such as sexual assault or endangering the welfare of a child, and have not yet accepted a plea deal, take the time to read these 15 common sex offender registration pitfalls.
- Megan’s Law Registration: N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2. This statute generally requires sex offender registration for a minimum of 15 years with local law enforcement. Failure to comply with initial registration, failure to verify, or failure to register when moving municipalities, is a third-degree crime. Most registrants must re-register annually, and some, who have been deemed repetitive and compulsive, must re-register every 90 days. When changing an address, re-registering is required 10 days prior to the address change with local law enforcement where the sex offenders lives and where he will be moving to.
- Megan’s Law Notification: N.J.S.A. 2C:7-6 and N.J.S.A. 2C:7-13. The scope of community notification depends upon an offender’s designated tier. The tier represents the risk the offender poses to the safety of others for sex offense recidivism. There are three tiers: Tier 1, being the lowest, to Tier 3, being the highest. Tier 1 notification is the least invasive, in which only local law enforcement has access to a registrant’s sex offender record. Tier 2 “moderate risk” offenders are subject to sex offender notification going to schools and community groups caring for women and children in the area(s) where the offender lives, works, and/or attends school. Tier 2 offenders are also subject to placement on the Internet Sex Offender Registry, however, some exceptions apply. Tier 3 “high-risk” offenders are subject to Tier 1 and 2 notification; plus, hand-delivered notification by law enforcement to neighbors living near the area that the offender lives and works.
- Civil Commitment: N.J.S.A. 304-27.24, et seq. Anyone convicted, adjudicated delinquent, or found not guilty by reason of insanity for a sexually violent sex offense, a term defined broadly by statute, is evaluated by the State for civil commitment under the Sexually Violent Predator Act. If committed, confinement will commonly last years, up to life, following the offender’s prison sentence.
- Parole Supervision for Life (PSL): N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.4. Similar to Community Supervision for Life (CSL), PSL is a form of parole lasting a minimum of 15 years following incarceration, and imposes over 20 conditions on individuals convicted of certain sex crimes. General and special conditions include, but are not limited to: where an offender may live and work; authorizes warrantless searches of the person’s home, computer and car; imposition of a curfew; polygraph testing; and limitations on computer usage.
- Sex Offender Monitoring Act: N.J.S.A. 30-4-123.89. Authorizes the electronic monitoring of sex offenders 24-hours per day, and imposes 11 special conditions. GPS-monitoring is mandatory for all Tier 3 registrants, and the New Jersey State Parole Board has been provided broad discretion to implement monitoring of sex offenders who have been sentenced to either CSL or PSL, discharged from civil commitment, or convicted of a sex crime against a victim who was under the age of 18 or over the age of 60.
- Polygraph Tests. N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.88. The NJ Parole Board requires CSL and PSL parolees to undergo at least one polygraph exam annually.
- Housing restrictions: While the New Jersey courts say that towns cannot create ordinances banning sex offenders or restrict where they may lives, the Legislature regularly introduces bills that would give municipalities this power. Furthermore, parole officers can restrict were CSL and PSL parolees may reside.
- Child Custody and Visitation: N.J.S.A. 9:2-4.1. The courts are prohibited from awarding custody or visitation to a person convicted of sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, or endangering the welfare of a child, unless the offender can prove by clear and convincing evidence that custody and visitation are in the best interest of the child. As a general matter, DCP&P (formerly known as DYFS) and PSL officers will become involved whenever a former sex offender lives in a household with minors. Prior approval is required which, if granted, can take months to obtain.
- Internet Access Prohibition: N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.6. At sentencing, a court may restrict a person whose sex offense is found to be “facilitated” by a computer from using an internet-capable device, such as a computer or smartphone. Parole may also perform searches or install monitoring device/software on the computer of a CSL or PSL parolee.
- Nicole’s Law: Authorizes judges to impose a restraining order when issuing bail, or require treatment and other conditions for rehabilitation purposes when imposing probation.
- Barred from Expungement: N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(b) and N.J.S.A. 2C:52-4.1. Adults convicted or juveniles adjudicated delinquent of a sex offense are barred from obtaining an expungement.
- Extended Term of Imprisonment: N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.4(e). Individuals who are on CSL or PSL, and commit one of 11 subsequent offenses, will be sentenced to a mandatory extended term of imprisonment. The enumerated offenses need not be sexual in nature, such as, second-degree burglary or aggravated assault.
- AIDS/HIV Testing: N.J.S.A. 2C:43-2.2 and N.J.S.A. 2CA:4A-43.1. If the victim requests it or a prosecutor makes a motion, an individual, whether an adult or juvenile, convicted or adjudicated delinquent of aggravated sexual assault or subsection (a) or (c) of the sexual assault statute, may be required to submit to AIDS or HIV testing.
- Parole regulation limiting internet access: N.J.S.A. 10A:71-6.11. A general condition under Parole Supervision for Life, in which the NJ Parole Board can prohibit an offender from any usage or access to social networking sites or chat rooms on the internet.
- The Adam Walsh Act (SORNA): Federal legislation which, if adopted in New Jersey, would broadly expand sex offender registration and notifications requirements.
How do you avoid the pitfalls? First, find an attorney who has a significant experience in sex crimes and sex offender registration matters. A knowledgeable attorney will attempt to dismiss your charges or obtain a plea deal that considers reduces.
Have you already taken a sex offense plea and want to modify your sentence? Again, call a lawyer and see if you are eligible for post-conviction relief (PCR) or a termination of your Megan’s Law registration requirements. The Morris County law firm of Maynard Law Office, LLC has significant experience, and we stand at the ready to review your options.
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