While the justice system typically treats juveniles differently than adults, sex offender registration requirements are a notable exception. Sex offenses tend to be treated differently than other crimes, even in adult cases. Juveniles may find themselves haunted by their past mistakes well into their adult years. In this article, our juvenile defense lawyers will review registration requirements, how the process starts, and how to apply for removal.
Juveniles must register as sex offenders just like convicted adults. This is one of the few areas where juveniles are treated no differently than adult offenders. There may be penalties for those who fail to register. However, it might be possible for juveniles to expunge their records once they are adults, but this is not always possible for all juveniles.
If your child is facing charges related to sex offenses, there may be very steep penalties on the horizon. Our Cape May juvenile defense lawyers have handled juvenile cases in the past and can help. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to discuss your case. Our team is available for free legal consultations.
Can Juveniles Be Convicted as Sex Offenders in New Jersey?
Many parents find themselves unprepared to handle their child’s juvenile criminal case because they are unfamiliar with how the juvenile system works. Many people are unsure how juvenile sexual offenses are handled or if juveniles must register as sex offenders. While juveniles may be convicted of sex crimes just like adults, the process works differently and uses different terminology.
Juveniles are not convicted but are instead adjudicated. However, they must register as sex offenders just like their adult counterparts. The crimes for which juvenile registration is required are the same for juveniles and adults. Juveniles must also follow the same rules for registering, including the timeliness of registration and informing law enforcement if they relocate.
While the requirements for registration are the same for juveniles and adults, the criteria for removal from the registry might be different. Juveniles have unique opportunities to expunge their criminal records as they become adults. However, this is not always possible in cases of sexual offenses.
If your child or grandchild is facing criminal charges for sexual crimes, contact our New Jersey juvenile defense lawyers before proceeding.
Types of Offenses That Require Registration as a Sex Offender in New Jersey
Each state has its own set of sex crime laws. Therefore, each state also has its own list of “registerable offenses,” or offenses that require registration as a sex offender. New Jersey’s registration requirements are set forth in N.J.S.A. § 2C:7-2, which defines the following as registerable offenses (some of which are subject to special criteria):
- Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact
- Aggravated Sexual Assault
- Criminal Restraint
- Endangering the Welfare of a Child (Child Endangerment)
- False Imprisonment
- Luring or Enticing a Child
- Sexual Assault
People who fall into any of the following three categories are required to register for the commission of a registerable offense:
- Adults who were convicted (found guilty).
- Adults who were found not guilty by reason of insanity.
- Juveniles who were “adjudicated delinquent.”
Juveniles must register as sex offenders just like adults if convicted of any sexual offenses listed above. While juveniles are often treated differently than adults by our justice system, this is one area where there is no special treatment for juveniles. However, there are different rules for juveniles regarding removal from the sex offender registry.
How Are Juveniles Convicted of Sex Offenses in New Jersey?
As mentioned above, the juvenile justice system uses somewhat different terminology compared to the adult system. This is often an attempt to minimize the stigma associated with criminal charges and allow young offenders to hopefully be rehabilitated. As such, juvenile sex offenders are not “convicted” but are instead “adjudicated delinquent.”
Before we move on, let’s clarify the meaning of the term “adjudicated delinquent.” When a juvenile is charged with committing a crime, they are detained by law enforcement. (Unfortunately, juveniles are not eligible for bail in New Jersey.) When the juvenile is released, there are several paths the case can take. Depending on the nature and severity of the charges, the case can be handled by the Juvenile Conference Committee (JCC), Intake Services Conference (ISC), or a court (which may be formal or informal).
If the juvenile is found guilty, they are “adjudicated delinquent” instead of being convicted. In general, the New Jersey judiciary defines an adjudication as a judicial determination of whether a juvenile has committed the crimes listed in the complaint against them. The juvenile will then receive a record and be subject to various penalties, such as fines, probation, driver’s license suspension, and community service. A juvenile being adjudicated delinquent is essentially the equivalent of being convicted.
Our New Jersey juvenile defense attorneys will fight for your child or grandchild and get them the help they need to live a normal adult life in the future.
Sex Offender Registration Requirements for Juveniles in New Jersey
The New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) is responsible for informing juveniles of their registration responsibilities. This authority is provided by N.J.S.A. § 2C:7-3, which states that the JJC, among other organizations, establish procedures for notifying juvenile under their supervision of registration obligations and requirements. Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:7-4, the Superintendent of State Police is required to supply the JJC with a form of registration, which includes:
- A signed written statement where the juvenile acknowledges that they were informed of their duty to register.
- The date and place of the adjudication(s), including indictment numbers, fingerprints, and a description of the crimes for which registration is required.
- Any additional information deemed necessary by the Attorney General to assess the risk of future commission of a crime.
The procedures for notification can be found under N.J.S.A. § 2C:7-8 and may vary from case to case. Once risk factors for re-offending have been assessed, a juvenile will be deemed a low, moderate, or high risk for re-offending.
If your child is low-risk, they may only have to notify law enforcement agencies of their sex offender status. This could include local police departments and other similar agencies in the area. For moderate-risk juvenile offenders, local community organizations might be notified. This includes schools, religious organizations, and youth or community centers. Notification requirements for high-risk offenders are very harsh and include notice to the general public. This means neighbors and people within the community will know about your child’s status as a sex offender.
Notification requirements for a juvenile adjudicated as a sexual offender may create an unfairly harsh stigma against the juvenile. Our New Jersey sex crimes defense lawyers can help you fight the charges and hopefully avoid these harsh registration requirements.
Penalties for Failure to Register as a Juvenile Sex Offender in New Jersey
After being adjudicated delinquent for a sexual offense, a juvenile must register with New Jersey’s sex offender registry. Registration requirements are not optional, and failure to comply is met with strict consequences. In fact, failure to register is considered a separate criminal offense and may be charged as a third-degree crime.
Talk to our New Jersey sex crimes defense lawyers about any failure to register. For a first-time offense, a court might be understanding for innocent mistakes or misunderstandings. You can also argue that circumstances beyond your control prevented you from registering on time. However, repeated failures to register will not be met with much leniency, and the odds of incarceration for a conviction will increase.
Exceptions and Getting Removed from the Registry
With all of this information in mind, there are some exceptions for juveniles who were adjudicated delinquent. This is established by N.J.S.A. § 2C:7-12, which states that the Legislature “in some instances, can exclude from the Internet registry the… information of certain sex offenders.”
These “certain sex offenders” include, to continue quoting the statute:
“juveniles who have been adjudicated delinquent for the commission of one sex offense, but who do not present a relatively high risk of re-offense.”
In other words, the court may find that internet registration is inappropriate if the juvenile was (1) found guilty of one offense only, and (2) does not seem likely to re-offend, based on supporting evidence. While each case is unique and must be reviewed individually, this scenario generally “justifies the decision to limit public access to information about such juveniles through the Internet.”
Furthermore, there are also some circumstances under which removal from the registry is possible. A juvenile offender can apply to be removed from the Sex Offender Registry if they were 13 years old or younger when adjudicated delinquent and are now at least 18 years old. However, removal is not possible if the adjudication involved sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, or more than one offense.
If your child, grandchild, brother, or sister has been accused of committing sex crimes in New Jersey, the outcome of the charges could negatively impact the rest of their life, affecting everything from job opportunities to student loans for college. It is absolutely critical that your loved one’s legal rights are being protected by a skilled and experienced Atlantic City sexual offense lawyer.
How Could My Child’s Life Change as a Registered Sex Offender in New Jersey?
A juvenile’s life will be dramatically altered if they are adjudicated delinquent for a sexual offense. Not only will they be labeled as a sex offender, but they will be part of the state’s sex offender registry, and schools, employers, and neighbors may find out about their status. Our New Jersey juvenile criminal defense lawyers are familiar with registration requirements and can advise you on how to proceed.
Your child must always be registered. Failure to register is not an option. You must register periodically with local law enforcement agencies. You must also re-register every time you relocate or your juvenile’s school enrollment or employment status changes. Registration requirements often make it very difficult for families to relocate or enroll their children in certain schools.
When your child goes to college, they may be limited as living out of state becomes challenging. If your child moves to a different state, they will have to register in that state and comply with its requirements. This means providing notice to all required parties all over again.
If your child wants to get a job, they may be denied due to their criminal record. This goes for applying for summer jobs or if they want to work after graduation.
These charges may follow your child into adulthood as expungements are not guaranteed. For some, expungements may not be possible if your child’s case meets certain criteria, such as being convicted of multiple sex offenses.
Call Our New Jersey Juvenile Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys
To set up a free and completely confidential legal consultation, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956. Our attorneys have more than 45 years of combined experience and have achieved favorable outcomes for numerous juvenile clients. Our New Jersey juvenile defense lawyers have experience defending these kinds of cases.