How Sex Offender Risk Levels Are Determined in New Jersey

When a defendant in New Jersey is convicted of a sex crime which is also a registerable offense, he or she must register as a sex offender.  However, the rules and requirements that apply to registered sex offenders differ depending on the offender’s risk level.  For example, risk level determines who will be notified of the crime, which has a major impact on the offender’s day-to-day life.  In this article, our Atlantic City sexual assault attorneys explain how New Jersey sex offenders are categorized into different risk groups, which are called Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3.

NJ Community Notification Requirements for Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 Sex Offenders

The first step is to determine whether the defendant has committed a registerable offense.  See our article on what crimes require sex offender registration in New Jersey for a full list of registerable offenses.

If the defendant is found guilty of committing a registerable offense, he or she will be required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law, the law requiring sex offenders’ information to be made publicly available through online databases.  Even juveniles are required to register as sex offenders in New Jersey, though some states have different rules for minors.  In very limited situations, it may be possible to get removed from the sex offender registry.

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While all sex offenders are entered into New Jersey’s registry, notification requirements for the local community depend on the offender’s “Tier” classification, which could be Tier 1 (low risk), Tier 2 (moderate risk), or Tier 3 (high risk).

If the offender receives a Tier 1 classification, only police officers will receive notification.  If the offender is classified as Tier 2, schools, summer camps, day care facilities, and various community organizations for children will also be notified in addition to law enforcement.  If the offender receives a Tier 3 classification, the highest risk level, members of the general public will also be notified.  Police officers go from door to door in communities where Tier 3 offenders live, handing out notification forms to local residents.

But how do prosecutors decide which classification is appropriate?

Attorney General Guidelines for Sex Offender Risk Assessment in NJ

The answer can be found in the Attorney General Guidelines for Law Enforcement for the Implementation of Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Laws.  The guidelines identify two basic factors that should be considered when assigning a risk level:

  1. The harm that would be caused by reoffending.  The possibility of recidivism, which means committing repeat offenses, is always a major concern for prosecutors and law enforcement where convicted sex offenders are involved.  However, prosecutors recognize that some crimes are more dangerous than others when considering risk assessments.  As an example, the guidelines compare exhibitionists and violent offenders.  If an exhibitionist or “flasher” reoffends, there is relatively little risk to public safety.  There is much greater danger involved with a violent offender who committed a crime like aggravated sexual assault in Atlantic City.
  2. The likelihood of reoffending.  In addition to weighing the harm that would result from recidivism, prosecutors also evaluate the likelihood of recidivism.  The following criteria are used as predictors of recidivism:
  3. Whether the offender has any social support in terms of rehabilitation programs or other resources.
  4. Whether the offender leads an “antisocial lifestyle,” meaning unemployment, lack of education, and/or substance abuse.
  5. The extent to which the offender is making progress with therapy or other treatments.
  6. The “intensity, duration, and frequency” of the offender’s crime or crimes.  This includes factors like the total number of offenses, the total number of victims, and how much time has passed since the last offense, if any.criminal attorney cape may

Will My Neighbors Be Notified if I Am Convicted of a Sex Crime in Atlantic City?

Regardless of whether an offender is classified as Tier 1, Tier 2, or Tier 3, notification forms include the same information: the offender’s photo, name, home address, work address, school address, license plate number, and a short description of the conviction.

However, state laws heavily restrict how and where notification papers may be disseminated.  A person who receives a sex offender notification may only share the information with:

  • People they live with (e.g. family members, roommates).
  • Nannies or babysitters they hire to watch their children.

Notification recipients may not spread the information anywhere else, or to anyone else.  This means recipients cannot print out flyers and go stapling them around libraries or coffeeshops.  In fact, recipients are not even allowed to make copies of the notification letter.  The task of community notification should be left exclusively to law enforcement.

If you were charged with aggravated criminal sexual contact in Atlantic County or Cape May County, you need to talk to an experienced New Jersey defense attorney as soon as possible.  A sex crime conviction can change your life forever, destroying your reputation, career, and personal relationships.  You will also face incarceration, heavy fines, and other criminal penalties.  To set up a free legal consultation, call our Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys right away at (609) 616-4956.  We will keep your information confidential.

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