Revisions to Sex Offender Guidelines Under Megan’s Law

Gavel BookUnder Megan’s Law (N.J.S.A. 2C:7-12 to 2C:7-19), U.S. law enforcement agencies are required to make certain information about registered sex offenders available to the public.  However, it is up to each state to decide on the type of information that should be publicized, and how that information should be disseminated.  The law was created in response to the death of Hamilton, New Jersey resident, 7-year-old Megan Kanka, who was raped and killed by her neighbor, a sex offender with two previous convictions.  In 1994, the New Jersey Legislature passed a series of laws that required sex offenders to be routinely monitored, and for communities to be notified when a sex offender was moving into their neighborhood.  Even more significant, the law imposed a sentence of life in prison without parole eligibility for those who are convicted of a second sexual assault.

Since then, Megan’s Law has been a constant source of political, moral and ethical debates.  While supporters claim that public information about sex offenders is necessary for protecting our children, a 2008 study showed no significant reduction to the rate of sex crimes on minors since the law’s inception.  In addition, Megan’s Law seemed to have little effect on the reduction of re-offenses, or on the number of sexual victims, which was its main purpose.  It has been argued that maintaining such laws is unjustifiable in terms of financial costs.  Detractors are especially concerned that publicly releasing the location of a sex offender will lead to actions such as harassment, assault and murder by zealous community members.

Recent Changes to Megan’s Law Impose Stricter Penalties on Sex Offenders

Since 1994, New Jersey has made minor changes to Megan’s Law, upgrading offenses in order to impose stricter penalties.  For instance, failing to register as a sex offender was upgraded from a fourth degree to a third degree criminal offense in 2007.  This change was the focus of a recent ruling by the State’s appellate court against a Union Beach resident.  The defendant, who received a five-year probationary sentence as a result of failing to register, argued that he should not be subject to the stiffer penalties imposed under Megan’s Law, since his conviction was prior to 2007.  While the court acknowledged that his initial conviction was before 2007, the specific offense of failing to register was committed in 2011.  The court ruled that the two offenses are distinctly separate convictions, and therefore he was correctly convicted for failing to register under the 2007 amendment.

Currently, the Legislature is considering tougher penalties for offenders who fail to register when they move to a different address.  Other changes may include requiring offenders to pay a monthly fee of $30, which would be used to hire additional parole officers.  The law also seeks to change the policy that currently requires minors who are caught sharing nude photos of themselves with other minors to register as sex offenders.  If these changes are approved, minors would still face conviction in family court, but would not be listed on the national sex offender registry.

Need Help from a NJ Criminal Lawyer?

For more information on New Jersey’s requirements under Megan’s Law, or if you’re facing a criminal conviction in New Jersey, speak with the criminal attorneys of Villani & DeLuca.  In addition to knowledge of the State’s sex offense laws, our lawyers have extensive experience representing clients in the New Jersey Courts system.  Please call (732) 965-3350 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys today!

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