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 which 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 else face risk facing tough penalties. In this article, our sexual assault lawyers will explain which crimes require registration, which offenders qualify for removal from the registry, and the consequences of failure to comply with Megan’s Law.
Which Sex Crimes 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 which require registration, or “registerable offenses,” as described below.
- Both Classes
- Aggravated Sexual Assault
- Aggravated Sexual Contact
- Sexual Assault
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.
- The offender was not the victim’s mother or father.
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.
While the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania recently ruled that forcing juvenile sex offenders to register was unconstitutional, New Jersey law still requires juvenile offenders to register just like adult offenders.
How Long Do Offenders Have to Stay Registered?
The “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 doesn’t 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 he or she committed the offense. (Note the waiting period is much shorter for juveniles. A juvenile offender may petition the court for removal upon reaching age 19, provided he or she was under 14 years old when the offense was committed.)
- They are able to “prove that they are not likely to pose a threat to the safety of others.”
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 will make sure that you are informed of your legal rights and responsibilities throughout the remainder of 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’s 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.
The consequences of failure to register can be severe. If you fail to meet your registration requirements or otherwise violate provisions of Megan’s Law, you will be charged with a fourth-degree crime, punishable by up to 18 months in prison. Indictable crimes are equivalent to felonies in other jurisdictions.
If you’ve been charged with a sex crime in New Jersey, you could be labeled a sex offender for the rest of your life. When the stakes are this high, you need an experienced 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 right away at (609) 616-4956. We are proud to represent clients throughout the state of New Jersey, including but not limited to Atlantic County, Cape May County, Ocean County, Camden County, and Burlington County.