In the State of New Jersey, there are two primary means of violating Megan’s Law: 1) Failure to Register, and 2) Failure to Verify. Understanding the distinction between these two offenses is important for both the public, and people on Megan’s Law themselves. Many people confuse the two offenses – even newspapers and the police often fail to tell them apart; however, “Failure to Register” and “Failure to Verify” are not interchangeable. Below, we define the elements of each offense, and explain why it is important to understand the difference between each. A clear picture of the law can dramatically affect a registrant’s ability to be removed from Megan’s Law.
Sex offender registration is intended to provide law enforcement with the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders so that the police can improve response time when sex crimes occur. Most states, including New Jersey, also implement community notification procedures (prescribed by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office) to give the public information about certain “higher risk” sex offenders.
As part of Megan’s Law, convicted sex offenders must present themselves to the local police in the municipalities where they live, work, and attend school. Sex offenders give the police certain personal information ranging from their home address to certain internet identifiers, such as email addresses.
A convicted sex offender is required to register following conviction or release from custody. Because people with a sex offense conviction are required to register, sex offenders are often referred to as registrants. Following initial registration, a registrant is required to re-register whenever he or she moves to a new municipality, changes employment, changes school, etc. Failure to do so is called “Failure to Register,” and is a third-degree crime.
Failure to Register, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2d(1)
Upon a change of address, a person shall notify the law enforcement agency with which the person is registered and shall re-register with the appropriate law enforcement agency no less than 10 days before he intends to first reside at his new address. Upon a change of employment or school enrollment status, a person shall notify the appropriate law enforcement agency no later than five days after any such change. A person who fails to notify the appropriate law enforcement agency of a change of address or status in accordance with this subsection is guilty of a crime of the third degree.
If a registrant does not move, change employment, etc., he or she is required to verify his information with the local law enforcement. A registrant must verify his or her information either once a year or every 90 days, depending on circumstances that are beyond the scope of this article. Failure to do so is called “Failure to Verify,” and is also a third-degree crime.
Failure to Verify, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2e
A person required to register under [Megan’s Law and has been deemed “repetitive and compulsive”] shall verify his address with the appropriate law enforcement agency every 90 days in a manner prescribed by the Attorney General. A person required to register under [Megan’s Law and was not found to be “repetitive and compulsive”] shall verify his address annually in a manner prescribed by the Attorney General. In addition to address information, the person shall provide as part of the verification process any additional information the Attorney General may require. . . . Any person who knowingly provides false information concerning his place of residence or who fails to verify his address with the appropriate law enforcement agency or other entity, as prescribed by the Attorney General in accordance with this subsection, is guilty of a crime of the third degree.
A “Failure to Register” or a “Failure to Verify” offense greatly affects your ability to be removed from Megan’s Law. Most counties in New Jersey argue that these offenses reset the 15-year waiting period. For this reason, it is highly advisable to seek out a law firm that has robust experience handling Megan’s Law and sex offender cases.
Our law firm has extensive experience with “Failure to Register” and “Failure to Verify” Megan’s Law offenses. In a case won by our managing partner, James H. Maynard, Esq., our firm was able to exclude Failure to Verify as an offense under the New Jersey Criminal Code for most registrants convicted before 2006, helping hundreds, if not thousands of unfairly convicted people. As a result, individuals who were “convicted” of Failure to Verify prior to December of 2005 may have their conviction vacated. [NOTE – the statute has since been revised; a Failure to Verify conviction stands for anyone convicted AFTER the statutory alteration]
If you have been charged with a Failure to Register or a Failure to Verify, do not hesitate to seek an experienced attorney who has both a Megan’s Law and criminal defense background. The same recommendation applies to registrants who seek to vacate a conviction, be removed from Megan’s Law, or receive competent representation in a Megan’s Law tier hearing. Do not hesitate to contact us online or call us today (973.540.0054) for your free consultation.