Q. Who is required to register?
A. Any person who was convicted, adjudicated delinquent or found not guilty by reason of insanity for the commission of any of the following offenses:
Aggravated sexual assault; sexual assault; aggravated criminal sexual contact; kidnapping where the victim is less than age 16, endangering the welfare of a minor by engaging in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of the minor; endangering the welfare of a minor by photographing or filming a child in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act or using any device, including a computer, to reproduce or reconstruct the image of a child in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act; luring or enticing a child less than 18 ; criminal sexual contact if the victim is under age 18; kidnapping, criminal restraint, or false imprisonment upon a person under age 18, where the offender was not a parent.
An attempt to commit any of these enumerated offenses would also qualify. A conviction, adjudication or acquittal by reason of insanity must have been entered ON OR AFTER OCTOBER 31, 1994; or the offender must have been serving a sentence of incarceration, probation, parole, or other forms of community supervision as a result of the offense or have been confined following acquittal by reason of insanity or as a result of civil commitment ON OR AFTER OCTOBER 31, 1994. These offenders must verify their residence annually with their local police departments.
Q. What about crimes or convictions BEFORE October 31, 1994?
A. A person must comply with registration even if he were convicted/adjudicated delinquent or found not guilty by reason of insanity for the following acts committed before October 31, 1994:
aggravated sexual assault; sexual assault; aggravated criminal sexual contact; or kidnapping of a person under age 16; or an attempt to commit any of these offenses AND the offender’s conduct was characterized by a pattern of repetitive and compulsive behavior.
These offenders must verify their residence every 90 days with their local police departments.
Q. What about crimes that occurred out of state?
A. A person convicted, adjudicated delinquent, or acquitted by reason of insanity for an offense similar to those outlined in answer 1, meeting the criteria of answer 1, OR an offender sentenced in another state on the basis of criteria similar to a finding of repetitive and compulsive behavior is subject to the provisions of Megan’s Law.
Q. How does an offender register?
A. Upon qualifying for Megan’s law, an offender must go to the local police department in the town in which he is residing (this may include the State Police). The offender is photographed and required to complete four Sex Offender Finger Print cards and a Sex Offender Registration and Acknowledgement Form. These forms contain personal information about the offender. The print cards and forms which the offender is required to sign also alert the offender to his registration obligations.
Q. What happens to the fingerprint cards and registration forms once the offender fills them out?
A. Each local police department has an officer assigned to handle Megan’s law matters. Upon registering an offender, Megan’s law office is required to forward to the County Prosecutor’s Office two fingerprint cards, two photographs, and one copy of the registration form.
Q. Why are the photographs, print cards, and the registration forms sent to the Prosecutor’s Office?
A. It is the responsibility of Megan’s Law Unit of the County Prosecutor’s office to forward a Sex Offender Print Card and photograph to the New Jersey State Police so that they may enter the sex offender in their database. It is also Megan’s Law Unit’s responsibility to classify every registered offender as to a specific tier or risk of re-offense. This process involves utilizing a specially designed risk assessment scale for each offender. The scale lists numerous factors to be considered in weighing the risk of re-offense, including:
degree of force used by the offender during the commission of the sexual offense; type of sexual offense; age of the victim; relationship between the offender and the victim; number of victims and sexual offenses; duration of the sexual offense; length of time since the last sex offense was committed; history of prior anti-social acts; offender’s response to treatment and therapeutic support; substance abuse issues; current residential support and employment and/or educational stability.
Once these factors are all considered the offender receives a numerical score. It is this specific score that places the offender in one of three possible tier categories.
Q. What are the three-tier categories and what is the difference between these tiers?
A. Tier 1 offenders are those offenders receiving a score on the Scale of 36 or under. Due to their low scores, these offenders are considered to be at low risk for re-offending. Tier II offenders are those offenders receiving a score of between 37 – 73 on the Scale. These offenders are considered to be at moderate risk for re-offending. Tier III offenders are those offenders receiving a score of 74 – 111 on the Scale. These offenders are considered to be at high risk of re-offending.
Q. Once an offender is classified, what occurs next?
A. Upon completing a classification, investigators from the Prosecutor’s office hand-serve copies of the Scale and proposed classification to the offender. The offender is provided with information regarding the Scale score, what tier they fall in, and what if any community notification is being sought. The offender is also advised if the Prosecutor is seeking to include him on the Sex Offender /Internet Registry. The offender has 14 days to review the classification information and decide whether or not he will challenge it in a Court proceeding. If the offender fails to respond to the Court, a default order is entered and the State may proceed with any intended notification, including Internet notification. If the offender objects, then the matter is set down for a Court hearing and eventually a decision is made by a Superior Court Judge as to tier and what, if any, community notification will occur, along with Internet eligibility if relevant.
Q. Will the community always be notified of the presence of a sex offender?
A. The law of the State provides that certain members of the community will be provided certain information about certain sex offenders. The courts, in response to the Attorney General’s guidelines, have limited the times when community notification can occur, and who in the community is entitled to that notification. Under the law, only registered community organizations that qualify for notification because they directly care for children, woman, or other vulnerable groups, schools, daycare centers, and summer camps are notified of moderate and high-risk offenders (Tier II and Tier III) who they are “likely to encounter”, because of the possibility that offenders may be drawn to these places.
In determining which groups, schools, etc. are likely to encounter the particular offender, the Court must consider the age of the victim of the underlying sexual offense, the relationship of the victim to the offender, and the distance of the location of the groups, schools, etc. from the offender’s residence and/or place of employment. Once the Court approves notification to specific groups, schools, etc. then staff members at these facilities who deal directly with children or potential victims are provided with information about the sex offender. Neighbors whose residences or businesses fall within a previously court-approved geographic area of the offender’s residence and/or place of employment will only be notified of Tier III or high-risk offenders.
In the urban areas of East Orange, Irvington, Newark, and Orange the area of notification is a 1000 foot radius. In the remaining suburban neighborhoods of Essex County, the area of notification is a one-half mile radius. If an offender is a Tier I or low-risk offender, then only law enforcement agencies are notified of the offender’s presence in the community.
Q. If a school receives a tier II notification will this information be provided to the parents of children attending the school?
A. In the case of a Tier II offender notification, the school IS NOT PERMITTED TO SHARE THE OFFENDER INFORMATION WITH THE PARENTS OF THEIR STUDENTS. The Court has limited Tier II offender information only to staff, so they may protect the children or potential victims while they are located at a facility likely to encounter the sex offender. The information can not be disclosed to students or parents; and the Order signed by the Superior Court Judge advises the staff or anyone allowed to receive the information not to disseminate the information they receive under Megan’s law. Tier II notification in the urban areas is within a radius of one-half mile of the offender’s residence and/or place of employment and in the suburbs, two miles.
Q. Are there any occasions when the schools, community organizations, daycare, etc. can advise the parents or families of their students about a sex offender?
A. The only time that Megan’s law information will be released to parents or families of students is when the school receives a Tier III (high risk) notice concerning an offender. The school, community organization, daycare center, etc. will then mail or hand the parents or responsible adult family member Megan’s law information. At no time should the school provide the information directly to the student (unless the student is over age 18 years old). The parents can then share the information that the school has provided with anyone in their household. Again, in urban areas, only students of those institutions which fall within a 1000 foot radius of the registrant’s residence and/or place of employment are entitled to notice. And in suburban areas, the range is one-half mile.
Q. If I receive Megan’s law information from the school or prosecutor’s office, can I share it with friends, family, and neighbors who may not have received the information?
A. Again the simple answer is “NO.” Megan’s law information is only provided to the community after a Court order has been issued. The Order is very specific as to which locations or addresses are entitled to receive Megan’s law information. If you receive Megan’s law information pursuant to a court order, and then share that information with someone not entitled to view it, you are technically violating a Court order and could be held in contempt of Court.
Q. If I am seeking to move to a new neighborhood, am I entitled to know if there are any sex offenders living in the neighborhood before I make the decision to move?
A. NO. It is commonly misunderstood that Megan’s law information is open to the public; as explained above, it is not. No information will ever be released over the telephone; the only information a citizen may receive is about Tier III, high-risk offenders living within 1000 feet of their homes in the urban areas of East Orange, Irvington, Newark, and Orange. In the suburbs, as stated previously the area of notification to residences for Tier III offenders is one-half mile. In order to receive the Tier III information the Prosecutor’s Office and local police department will require identification with proof of current residency. Once identification is provided you will receive only the information that was covered by prior Court order. In most instances, there will be no information for you to receive. Because proof of residence is required, law enforcement can not share Megan’s law information with prospective homebuyers.
Q. My real estate agent or attorney told me I was entitled to information about sex offenders in my community. Is that true?
A. As indicated above, unfortunately, there is a great deal of misunderstanding about Megan’s law. Until you actually move into the community you are not entitled to any information. Upon moving into the community you will only be entitled to Tier III, high-risk offender information if your new address was covered by previous Court order.
Q. What happens if a sex offender does not register or fails to re-register with their local police department on time?
A. Failure to register or re-register is a 4th-degree crime under N.J.S.A.2C: 7-2. This crime is punishable with a sentence of up to 18 months in State prison.
Q. What happens if a sex offender registers with a local police department and then changes his address or moves to another town?
A. The sex offender is required to report every change of address to their local police department, and then re-register with the new town if they change towns. Failure to provide 10 days notice in advance of any move is also a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C: 7-2 and a 4th-degree crime.
Q. If I know someone has been convicted of a crime requiring that they register, should I call the police?
A. You can always provide information concerning a sex offender to the local police or prosecutor’s office. Please remember that law enforcement will not be able to advise you whether or not that particular person is registered and if so where.
Q. Is Megan’s law information available on the internet?
A. On January 1, 2002, legislation became effective authorizing the posting of certain sex offender information on the Internet. The law limits the information to be placed on the Internet to only Tier III and some Tier II offenders. The law excludes juvenile sex offenders, most sex offenders whose crimes were committed against members of their families or households, and most offenders whose crimes were considered statutory (the victim of the underlying sex offense was too young to give his/her consent to any sexual activity). The law also allows offenders to challenge in Court the information being placed on the website.
On February 20th, 2002 New Jersey launched the Internet Sex Offender Registry. The Registry is located at: www.njsp.org/sex-offender-registry/index.shtml. However, court cases may possibly restrict the availability of information from the Internet Registry.
Q. How is the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office responding?
A. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office has formed a special Megan’s Law Unit to process the registration and notification information for all offenders subject to Megan’s Law. This Unit must also conduct a review of all existing and new sex offender cases to determine whether or not they should be included in the Internet Registry. Each case found eligible is subject to judicial review and hearings. The Unit is staffed by a team of Assistant Prosecutors, Detectives, and support personnel, and processes in excess of 500 cases per year.