New Appellate Division Case: In the Matter of Registrants H.D. & J.M.:
Recently, the NJ Appellate Division decided a case that will impact many registrants on NJ’s Megan’s Law.
The Appellate Division decided In the Matter of Registrants H.D. & J.M. a little over a month ago. The court held that if a registrant commits an offense within the first 15 years following his sex offense conviction or release from custody, he or she may get off Megan’s Law because the “15-year clock” resets.
In other words, after a registrant commits another offense, he may petition the court for removal from Megan’s Law if 15 additional years have passed. Also, the registrant must satisfy other requirements in Megan’s Law.
The significance of this case:
Prior to this decision, counties in NJ interpreted the “fifteen year” offense-free language of Megan’s Law differently.
For instance, some prosecutors took the position that if someone commits another offense (following his sex offense conviction), he is forever barred from getting off Megan’s Law.
On the other hand, prosecutors and judges in other counties concluded that registrants may petition to get off Megan’s Law if they remain offense-free
for another fifteen year period. To put it another way, these counties determined that the 15-year clock “re-sets.”
Brief facts of the case:
In the H.D. & J.M. case, both registrants committed sex offenses that placed them on Megan’s Law and CSL. After their underlying sex offenses, both committed minor, non-sex offenses within the 15 years that they were on Megan’s Law.
Since their latest convictions, both have remained offense-free since 2001. A few years ago, both registrants petitioned the courts for removal from Megan’s Law and CSL.
The trial courts denied both registrants’ petitions for removal from Megan’s Law.
Issue on Appeal:
The issue on appeal was whether those who have committed subsequent offenses (after sex offense conviction) are ever eligible to get off Megan’s Law.
The relevant statutory language at issue is N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(f), which governs removal from NJ’s Megan’s Law:
“f. … a person required to register under this act may make application to the Superior Court of this State to terminate the obligation upon proof that the person has not committed an offense within 15 years following conviction or release from a correctional facility for any term of imprisonment imposed, whichever is later…”
In this case, the State argued that such registrants are permanently barred from getting off Megan’s Law because of the subsequent conviction.
NJ Appellate Division’s Decision:
The court concluded that the language of N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(f) is unclear as to whether the “15-year” clock may ever reset.
As a result, the Appeals Court held that individuals on Megan’s Law who commit a later offense may petition the court for removal from Megan’s
Law 15 years after their most recent conviction. In sum, the court concluded that the “15-year clock” re-sets.
The court reasoned that: “…permanently denying relief to a registrant who has led a law-abiding life for fifteen years after conviction and otherwise meets the requirements of subsection (f) serves no remedial purpose.” (p. 12).
The appeals court reversed and remanded the decisions of the trial court. Now, the trial courts must consider whether H.D. & J.M. have remained offense-free since their 2001 convictions.
How this case may apply to you:
If you are currently on Megan’s Law and have committed another offense after you were first placed on Megan’s Law, you should contact
an experienced lawyer. The decision in H.D. & J.M. may apply to you.
The State will be filing a petition for certification. Once the State files this, the New Jersey Supreme Court will decide whether to grant or deny cert. If cert is granted, then the NJ Supreme Court will hear oral arguments and decide whether to affirm or reverse the Appellate Division’s decision in H.D. & J.M. However, the court’s ruling remains the current law unless and until the NJ Supreme Court grants cert and then issues a decision.
Maynard Law Office, LLC can help you:
At Maynard Law Office, LLC, we are specialized in sex offense law. We represent clients facing a variety of legal matters. We have successfully helped many individuals get off Megan’s Law, CSL/PSL, and other states’ sex offender registries.
Also, given our firm’s in-depth knowledge and successful outcomes in sex offense law, we often come up with persuasive, novel legal theories to obtain legal relief — even when previous attorneys have told our clients that there was no possibility of relief.
So, call us today at (973)-540-0054 for a free consultation.