Rapid technological development over the last couple of decades has led to countless new forms of communication – mostly involving the Internet. Personal computers, cell phones, tablets, and smart devices connect us to billions of people around the globe.
While this proliferation of technology and communication has its benefits, it also presents opportunities for disaster, particularly for teenagers and young children. Online message boards, social media, dating websites, smartphone cameras, and peer-to-peer networking – all of these place teenagers in greater danger than ever before of committing “sex offenses.” Even in cases where teens do not believe they are committing a Megan’s Law crime, one miscalculated decision often results in police knocking on the front door.
As a New Jersey criminal defense firm, our attorneys routinely see kids charged with sex offenses arising from online interactions. Sexting, age-inappropriate dating, and file-sharing of pornography can all lead to devastating consequences. Often times, teenagers and younger children are adjudicated delinquent of these charges without a full understanding of the long-term consequences.
Understandably, New Jersey parents are concerned: If my teenager is adjudicated guilty for a sex offense, can he or she be put on Megan’s Law?
Yes. In New Jersey, children can be placed on Megan’s Law. Many states throughout the United States do not permit juveniles on sex offender registries, including Pennsylvania, where the Supreme Court of that state just declared Megan’s Law unconstitutional as applied to juveniles. However, New Jersey continues to demand Megan’s Law inclusion for child sex offenders.
For reference, the statute that mandates juvenile inclusion on Megan’s Law is found under N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2. This law says that anyone who is “adjudicated delinquent” (similar to a conviction, but for juveniles) of a sex offense is to be placed on Megan’s Law. The list of “sex offenses” is found under N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(b)(2), and includes the following:
A[n]… adjudication of delinquency… for aggravated sexual assault; sexual assault; aggravated criminal sexual contact; kidnapping pursuant to paragraph (2) of subsection c. of N.J.S.2C:13-1; endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of the child pursuant to subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:24-4; endangering the welfare of a child pursuant to paragraph (3) or (4) or subparagraph (a) of paragraph (5) of subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:24-4; luring or enticing pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1993, c.291 (C.2C:13-6); criminal sexual contact pursuant to N.J.S.2C:14-3b. if the victim is a minor; kidnapping pursuant to N.J.S.2C:13-1, criminal restraint pursuant to N.J.S.2C:13-2, or false imprisonment pursuant to N.J.S.2C:13-3 if the victim is a minor and the offender is not the parent of the victim; knowingly promoting prostitution of a child pursuant to paragraph (3) or paragraph (4) of subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:34-1; or an attempt to commit any of these enumerated offenses….
Many parents find it ironic that Megan’s law – a law designed to protect children – is often turned around and used to ruin a child’s life. An adjudication of delinquency for any of the above offenses results in Megan’s Law inclusion, and usually carries 15 years of sex offender registration – or, in some cases, lifetime registration. This outcome is particularly tragic given recent scientific studies that show extremely low rates of re-offense for juveniles convicted of sex crimes.
In many respects, the law has not caught up with recent advancements in technology. The modern world presents significantly more opportunities for teenagers and young children to commit sex offenses. It is important for parents to be cognizant of the dangers. Of course, if the unthinkable happens and your child is charged with a sex crime, it is imperative that you seek out the advice of a knowledgeable attorney. Megan’s Law registration lasts for a long time, and can irreparably harm a child’s chances at success.
At Maynard Law Office, LLC, we have helped many families facing these types of challenges. If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex offense, do not hesitate to seek out the advice of experienced counsel. Call our firm at 973.540.0054, or contact us online for your free consultation.