New Jersey is tough on sex offenders. In addition to incarceration and fines, most offenders must register as such under a mandate called Megan’s Law. Sex offenders who have been convicted; adjudicated delinquent, convicted but under 18 years of age; or found not guilty by reason of insanity must register with law enforcement under Megan’s Law.
What is Megan’s Law?
New Jersey enacted Megan’s Law in 1994 after the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl, Megan Kanka. The perpetrator had two prior sex convictions involving young children. He lived across the street from Megan’s family. The family claimed that Megan would be alive today had they known this man’s history. Hence, Megan’s Law was enacted.
In 2001, an update to the law established a sex offender internet registry. This update requires sex offenders to register their address and notify law enforcement whenever they move. It also makes the name and address of sex offenders public.
All states have enacted Megan’s Law per a federal mandate by then-President Bill Clinton. Many countries have enacted variations of it as well.
Which Crimes Fall under Megan’s Law?
Anyone convicted of one of the following sexual offenses will most likely need to register with local authorities:
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Aggravated criminal sexual contact
- Endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct
- Criminal restraint
- False imprisonment
- Child pornography
- Knowingly promoting prostitution of a child
The public internet database and registration with local law enforcement require the following information about the sex offender:
- Name and aliases
- Height and weight
- Hair and eye color
- Scars and tattoos
- Vehicle information
- Details about the crime
- Access to and use of computers or another internet-capable device, such as a cell phone
What are Other Sex Offender Registration Requirements?
The following registration requirements also apply:
- Incarcerated offenders must register before their release.
- Offenders who are already registered and plan to move within the same jurisdiction must notify the current authorities at least 10 days before moving. If they move to a new jurisdiction, they must register with the new authorities at least 10 days before moving.
- Offenders moving to New Jersey must notify the chief law enforcement officer of their new municipality within 10 days of arrival.
- New Jersey offenders who work or go to school in another state must register in that state as nonresident offenders.
- New Jersey residents who attend or work at higher education institutions in another state must also register with the school’s law enforcement unit, or local law enforcement agency that serves the campus, within 10 days of starting school or work. If their work or school status changes, they must notify authorities no later than five days after the change.
- Offenders who are not residents of New Jersey but students or workers in a New Jersey school must register in the local municipality within 10 days of starting school attendance or employment.
- Anyone registered as a sex offender in New Jersey must verify their address with the appropriate agency once a year. Some offenders may be required to verify their address every 90 days.
What are Tiers of Sex Offenders?
When a person registers as a sex offender, they will be classified as Tier 1, Tier 2, or Tier 3. Tiers are assigned based on potential risk or threat to the community. An offender does have a right to a hearing before a tier is assigned.
- Tier 1: Low risk for reoffending. Tier 1 offenders do not need to register on the public internet database, but local law enforcement agencies will be notified.
- Tier 2: Moderate risk for reoffending. Information is included on the public internet database. Law enforcement, schools, religious/youth organizations, and affected community groups and citizens will also be notified.
- Tier 3: High risk for reoffending, and information is included on the public internet registry. Public citizens who may encounter the offender will be notified, along with law enforcement, schools, religious/youth organizations, and other relevant community groups.
Assessing the Risk of Reoffending
Before assigning a tier to a sex offender, the courts will consider the following factors:
- Whether the offender is or will undergo counseling, therapy, or treatment or is under supervision
- How the offender is responding to treatment
- Physical attributes, such as advanced age or illness
- Other criminal history
- Recent behaviors in prison or while under supervision
- Results of psychological or psychiatric evaluations that would shed light on risk for reoffending
Penalties for Failing to Register as a Sex Offender
A sex offender who must register in New Jersey must do so precisely as stated in their sentencing. If they fail to do so, they can be charged with a third-degree felony of failure to register.
Failure to register is punishable by:
- Three to five years in a state prison
- A possible fine of up to $15,000
- Loss of civil rights because of the felony charge, including ineligibility to vote, own a firearm, or serve on a jury
- A potentially stricter term of having to register, such as every 90 days versus once a year
- A possible inability to ever get removed from the Megan’s Law offender registry
Being a registered sex offender can make life difficult. Employment and housing may be difficult to procure. But failing to register can have harsh consequences, too.
A person who fails to register because of forgetfulness, mistake, not understanding requirements, or other reasons should immediately contact a local criminal defense lawyer.
How can a Lawyer Help Me if I Fail to Register as a Sex Offender?
A criminal defense lawyer can help defend the charge of failure to register in New Jersey in various ways.
First, they will tailor a strong case structured around the offender’s circumstances, with the reason for not registering a primary consideration. A skilled lawyer can often present evidence that created reasonable doubt in a jury’s mind. Any amount of reasonable doubt is enough to acquit an offender.
If the lawyer can successfully prove that the failure to register was an honest mistake, the prosecutor may be willing to negotiate a punishment or potentially drop the charges. A judge may also be more lenient in sentencing if the error was proved authentic.
Finally, there are occasions when a person has indeed registered, but somehow their registration is not recorded or reflected anywhere. The lawyer will need to prove that the person was never guilty.
Can I be Removed from the Sex Offender Registry in New Jersey?
A sex offender may be qualified to request removal from the registry if they:
- Committed just one sex crime.
- Must not have committed another offense for 15 years.
- Can prove they will most likely not be a threat to the public.
- Were under age 14 when the crime was committed and are now age 18 or older.
A local criminal defense lawyer can provide more information and prepare for the hearing to make the removal request.
Freehold Criminal Defense Lawyers at Ellis Law can Help Those Convicted of Sex Crimes Exercise Their Rights
As troubling as sex crimes are, sometimes circumstances are not as cut-and-dried as they seem. Every sex offender has certain rights, whether before or after conviction. The Freehold criminal defense lawyers at Ellis Law understand sex crime law and offender requirements and rights. If you or a loved one is charged with a sex offense or with not complying with Megan’s Law, contact us immediately for a free and confidential consultation about your unique situation. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.