In 1994, seven-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and murdered in Mercer County’s Hamilton Township. In response, New Jersey legislators created “Megan’s Law,” a term that describes the collective sex offender registration laws now in use throughout the country. While the registry is maintained on a national basis, each state observes its own set of registration requirements and procedures. As a result, convicted offenders must familiarize themselves with the registration requirements unique to their state or face tough penalties.
There are a variety of sex offenses, and many of them require that convicted offenders register as sex offenders. However, the class of offender you fall into will determine whether you are required to register. More serious sex crimes, like aggravated sexual assault or kidnapping, require registration no matter what category you fall into. Other offenses may be category-specific. In either case, convicted offenders must register for life, including juveniles, but may petition for removal if certain conditions are met.
If you have been convicted of a sexual offense in New Jersey, there is a strong chance that you are required to register as a sex offender. If you are unsure about registration requirements or confused about how to register, call our Atlantic City sex crimes defense attorneys for guidance. Set up a free legal consultation with our experienced team at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by calling (609) 616-4956.
Which Sex Crimes in New Jersey Require Registration Under Megan’s Law?
New Jersey divides sex offenders into two categories: offenders who are “repetitive and compulsive,” and offenders who are “nonrepetitive and compulsive.” Each class has a different set of offenses that require registration, or “registerable offenses,” as described below.
While each class of sex offenders must register for certain crimes, there are some offenses for which both classes must register no matter what due to the serious and sometimes violent nature of the offenses. Both repetitive and compulsive and nonrepetitive and compulsive offenders must register if convicted of the following:
- Aggravated Sexual Assault
- Aggravated Sexual Contact
- Sexual Assault
In addition to the above-listed offenses, nonrepetitive and compulsive offenders must also register for the following offenses:
- Criminal Sexual Contact (Minor Victim)
- Endangering the Welfare of a Child (Child Pornography Convictions)
- Endangering the Welfare of a Child by Sexual Conduct
- Luring or Enticing
Nonrepetitive and compulsive offenders are further required to register for convictions related to criminal restraint and false imprisonment, which are not categorized as sex crimes, in cases where:
- The victim was a minor and,
- The offender was not the victim’s mother or father.
The sex offender registry did not always exist, and for years convicted offenders did not have to register. Today, however, some offenders who were convicted before the enactment of Megan’s Law must retroactively register. Sex offenders who are classified as repetitive and compulsive must register regardless of the date they were convicted. Otherwise, offenders must register if they were either convicted or serving a sentence as of October 31, 1994, when Megan’s Law first went into effect.
Registering as a sex offender can be confusing and downright intimidating. For help with the registration process, contact our Cape May sexual assault lawyers today.
Which Crimes Require Public Notification Under the Sex Offender Registry in New Jersey?
Megan’s Law separates sex offenders into three distinct categories based on the severity of charges and how likely the defendant is to re-offend. These tiers also dictate the notification requirements for sex offenders. After being required to register as a sex offender, information about some offenders may be disseminated to the public. Exactly who gets notified depends on what tier you are under, and which tier you are under is influenced by what kind of crime you were convicted of.
Tier I offenders are considered the lowest risk offenders, and notification for this category is limited only to law enforcement agencies in the area. A Tier II offender is considered somewhat riskier with a higher likelihood of re-offending. Tier II notification requirements hold that local law enforcement agencies and educational institutions must be notified. Educational institutions include any schools in the area, including daycare centers and camps. Tier III is the most serious level, and offenders are at the highest risk for re-offending. Not only are law enforcement agencies and educational institutions notified, but Tier III registrants will be included on a public list of sex offenders available online.
The tier you are assigned to will depend on the nature of your charges and your likelihood of re-offending. The prosecutor on your case must decide what tier to place you in. The prosecutor may use a variety of information about you, such as your criminal history and information from those close to you. The prosecutor’s decision is subject to judicial review, and if you are unfairly placed in a higher tier, our Hamilton Township sexual assault defense lawyers can help you challenge that decision.
How Long Do Offenders Have to Stay Registered in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, under Megan’s Law, a “tier” system separates sex offenders into low-risk (Tier I), moderate-risk (Tier II), and high-risk (Tier III) groups. In other jurisdictions, an offender’s Tier classification determines the duration of registration – but New Jersey uses the Tier system only for purposes of notifying law enforcement and the general public. All New Jersey sex offenders are required to register for life, regardless of which Tier they are assigned.
However, that does not necessarily mean that registration is always permanent. Offenders may apply to be removed from the registry, provided they meet the following three requirements:
- They committed only one offense. Offenders with multiple sex crime convictions are not eligible for removal from the registry.
- At least 15 years have passed since they committed the offense.
- They are able to demonstrate that they are not a threat to public safety.
For any help regarding the registration or removal process for sex offenders, contact our New Jersey sex crimes defense attorneys right away.
Consequences for Failure or Refusal to Register as a Sex Offender in New Jersey
Registration as a sex offender after a conviction is not negotiable. Your registration’s exact terms and conditions may vary depending on how you are classified and what tier you fall under, but registration is required no matter what. Failure or refusal to register will be met with harsh consequences. This also goes for registered offenders who relocate within the state and fail to notify local law enforcement in their new area.
Failure to register or reregister is a fourth-degree crime in New Jersey. As such, it is punishable by a prison term of up to 18 months. Simply failing or refusing to register could put you behind bars for up to a year and a half. While the penalties are very harsh, the state does allow a 10-day grace period in which a convicted offender may register. Once those 10 days have passed, any unregistered offenders may be criminally charged.
If you failed to register as a sex offender, whether it is because you were late to register or outright refused, our legal team may be able to help. Contact our New Jersey sex crimes defense lawyers for assistance.
Removal From New Jersey’s Sex Offender Registry
Unfortunately, the legal process of getting removed from the registry is not as easy as simply meeting these three criteria. To formally initiate the process, you must file a motion in Superior Court. Your attorney will take care of filing the motion for you and make sure that you are informed of your legal rights and responsibilities throughout the process.
Be advised that the prosecutor may argue against your removal from the registry, which only emphasizes the importance of being represented by an experienced sex crimes attorney. Your lawyer will be able to draw on evidence to challenge the prosecutor and help you present your case favorably to the court.
It is also important to emphasize that certain sex offenders are ineligible for removal, regardless of the factors described above. An offender may not be removed from the registry, under any circumstances, if any of the following statements apply:
- The offender was convicted of more than one offense. (This also extends to juveniles who were adjudicated delinquent for more than one offense.)
- The offender was convicted of sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault. This applies even if the offender was only convicted of one sexual assault offense.
Removal from the registry is not guaranteed even if the criteria for removal are met. A prosecutor will be arguing against you, and you must convince a judge that removal from the registry is the best choice. This may be challenging as courts are not very sympathetic to convicted sex offenders. Our skilled New Jersey sex crimes defense attorneys will advocate for your removal on your behalf.
What if I Was Convicted of a Sex Offense in Another State but Moved to New Jersey?
Sex offender registries are not unique to New Jersey. Since the concept was first implemented, it has spread throughout the entire country. Now all states have sex offender registries, although the requirements of registration vary from state to state. In your home state or the state in which you were convicted, you might have been required to register for only a certain period of time. For example, in California, convicted sex offenders must register for 10 years, 20 years, or life. New Jersey, on the other hand, requires lifetime registration.
A person whose registration requirements expired in one state will still be required to register as a sex offender if they relocate to New Jersey. Since you are in a new state, you must abide by the rules of the new state. Additionally, relocation to New Jersey does not have to be permanent to warrant registering as a sex offender. Even people who temporarily move to New Jersey for school must register. If you are moving to New Jersey or plan on visiting for an extended time, contact our New Jersey sex crimes defense lawyers for help.
Contact Our New Jersey Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys
If you have been charged with a sex crime in New Jersey, you could be labeled a sex offender for the rest of your life. You need an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer on your side in court. To set up a free, completely confidential legal consultation, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.