Jersey City NJ Megan’s Law Lawyer
When a person is convicted of a sex crime in New Jersey, their punishment doesn’t end upon completion of their prison sentence. Rather, the punishment for a sex offense can last a lifetime because of Megan’s Law in New Jersey. Megan’s Law imposes a requirement that anyone convicted of a serious sex offense must register as a convicted sex offender. Not only will your freedom be inhibited as you are required to notify authorities of your movements in the future, but you can also feel helpless and unsure how to rebuild as your reputation is destroyed and your personal life is shattered. When facing criminal charges for a sexual crime carrying Megan’s Law registration, subjected to ongoing registration and reporting requirements, and wondering whether you can be removed from the sex offender internet registry and related issues that it is causing for your life, the skilled Megan’s Law attorneys at Proetta & Oliver can assist you.
If you are in need of any help whatsoever with a Megan’s Law case in Hudson County or elsewhere in New Jersey, please call our office in Jersey City at (201) 793-8018. The consultation is free and a lawyer who knows these cases inside and out is available to serve your needs 24/7.
What Megan’s Law Means in New Jersey and What it could Mean for You
You may have thought that you paid your debt to society when you completed a prison sentence, or post-incarceration probation, for a sex offense. But that was only the beginning of what could turn out to be a lifetime of problems associated with your conviction or guilty plea. That’s because anyone convicted of an eligible sex crime in New Jersey is required to register as a sex offender. In 1994, the New Jersey state legislature passed Megan’s Law: a law that required certain sex offenders to register in an online database and made it mandatory for certain high-risk sex offenders to notify neighbors when moving into a new neighborhood.
The sex offenses that can trigger Megan’s Law and automatic sex offender registration requirements are set forth by N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2. These Megan’s Law offenses include the following:
- Aggravated Sexual Assault
- Sexual Assault
- Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact
- Criminal Sexual Contact
- Criminal Restraint
- False Imprisonment
- Endangering the Welfare of a Child
- Luring or Enticing
- Promoting Prostitution of a Child
- Engaging in Child Pornography Activities
Note that for criminal sexual contact, kidnapping, criminal restraint, and false imprisonment charges, the offense must be against a minor under age 18. Likewise, the person convicted cannot be the child’s parent in order for Megan’s Law requirements to apply.
Requirements for Sex Offender Registration under Megan’s Law
If you are accused of committing one of these Megan’s Law offenses and are subsequently convicted or plead guilty, you could be subject to a number of extremely onerous requirements. Some of these requirements can include:
- You must register in an online database of sex offenders maintained by the NJ State Police (some people’s information is accessible to the public)
- You must verify your home address with local law enforcement agency annually, or every three months for serious sex offenses.
- You must notify the state if you plan to move or change residences.
- You could be prohibited from being around children.
- You could lose custody of your own kids.
- There may be restrictions on your ability to use the internet or email.
While the exact requirements will be determined by the particular criminal charges, the facts of your case, and your ultimate tier classification, some of the most severe restrictions tend to apply in all Megan’s Law cases. This means that you may be identified as a Sex Offender in an online Sex Offender Registry maintained by the New Jersey Division of State Police. While access to this database is technically open to law enforcement agencies, these agencies have the discretion to release “relevant and necessary information regarding sex offenders to the public when the release of information is necessary for public protection.” This means that most high-risk offenders will have their information made available to the community at large.
Additionally, if you apply for a job and the employer conducts a routine background check, they will likely see that you are a convicted sex offender, and potentially the details of your sex crime charges. As is the case across the broad, having a criminal record of any kind can make it difficult for you to secure housing, apply for loans, or enroll in college if you wish to do so in the future. Sexual crimes, however, pose a unique and enhanced burden when seeking such things.
Tiers 1, 2, and 3 Indicate Your Level of Risk
After your criminal matter has concluded and you have been released from custody, the prosecutor’s office in the county where you were convicted will make an assessment to determine your “risk level.” As part of this assessment, the state will consider a number of factors and then classify you according to a tier system that is based on the Registrant Risk Assessment Scale (RRAS). Some of the factors that are used in the RRAS to determine your sex offender tier include the following:
- Your age and physical condition, with advanced age or debilitating illness making it less likely that you will re-offend
- The nature of the sex offense, including whether your conduct involved repetitive and compulsive behavior
- The victim’s age
- Your relationship to the victim
- The nature and degree of injuries suffered by the victim
- Whether you used force or violence against the victim
- Whether you used a weapon during commission of the sex offense
- The length of your prison sentence.
- The findings of a psychological evaluation.
A Tier 1 classification is typically reserved for defendants who are not as likely to be repeat offenders, while a Tier 3 classification is typically reserved for defendants who are at high risk of being repeat offenders. Your particular tier classification will matter a great deal because the tier could determine both how long you will be required to register as a sex offender and the invasiveness of the registration requirements. For example, if you are classified in Tier 1, you may be more likely to successfully petition for removal from Megan’s Law registration requirements after a period of 15 years. However, if you are classified in Tier 3, you may never be able to get removed from Megan’s Law. Moreover, a Tier 1 classification means that only the law enforcement agency where you reside will be notified of your sex offender status. If you are classified in Tier 2, community organizations such as schools, churches, daycare centers, and youth groups will be notified of your sex offender status. If you are placed in Tier 3, the public will be notified of your sex crime conviction.
Can I appeal my Megan’s Law Tier?
After an initial determination has been made about your risk of re-offending and you have been given a tier classification, it may be possible for you to file an appeal and challenge the tier designation. However, you will have just 14 days to file an appeal in the county superior court and contest your classification status. New Jersey authorities are unbending when it comes to these deadlines, so it is imperative that you have a knowledgeable Megan’s Law attorney representing you throughout the process and filing all necessary paperwork in a timely fashion. Placing yourself in the best possible position when seeking to challenge your tier classification can impact you for the remainder of your life, so trusting this process to a highly qualified lawyer is advisable.
What Happens if You Fail to Register as a Sex Offender in NJ?
What happens if you do not follow the state’s stringent guidelines and fail to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law? Failure to register as a sex offender is a very serious crime that carries substantial penalties. In most instances, a conviction for failing to meet Megan’s Law requirements will result in you being sentenced to prison. This is because failure to register as a sex offender is considered a fourth degree indictable offense, a distinct criminal offense that is different than the original sex offense for which you were convicted. A conviction on fourth degree felony charges is punishable by a sentence of up to 18 months in state prison. It might be possible for a skilled sex crimes attorney to challenge a charge for failure to register under Megan’s Law by showing that the state was actually responsible for misplacing or losing your registration information. However, the consequences of a conviction are so severe that you should make every effort to ensure that the state has your information and that you are meeting all Megan’s Law requirements.
How Long does Someone Stay on Megan’s Law in NJ?
Although Megan’s Law is technically “for life,” it may still be possible for you to file a petition for removal from Megan’s Law in New Jersey. Once your lawyer files a petition for Megan’s Law removal on your behalf, a sex offender registry hearing will be scheduled. Under New Jersey law, you must wait for at least 15 years to have passed since conviction or release from a correctional facility on the original charge before you file for Megan’s Law removal. Needless to say, your chances of winning at the Megan’s Law removal hearing will be greatly enhanced if you have an experienced attorney on your side and helping to argue your case. Your chances of successfully petitioning for removal from Megan’s Law will also be boosted if you have stayed out of legal trouble and maintained a clean record after your original conviction. In fact, the NJ Megan’s Law statute stipulates that a person applying for termination of their sex offender registration obligation must provide evidence that they are not likely to pose a threat to the safety of others. Demonstrating to the court that you have made strides to improve your life and help out in the community often goes a long way toward convincing the judge that you no longer pose a threat to others and that your sex offender registration requirements should be eliminated. Your legal record, your employment record, and evidence of high-quality character via testimony from friends and family will all help your case. Our firm can help you assemble the most compelling petition and argument for removal, so please feel free to contact us to speak with a lawyer about your potential for being removed from Megan’s Law.
When You Have a Megan’s Law Case in Hudson County, Trusted Attorneys on Your Side
If you don’t have effective legal representation in your sex offense case, a conviction could follow you for the rest of your life. A criminal defense lawyer with experience handling sex crime cases may be able to identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and get the charges against you reduced, or even dismissed altogether, so that you can avoid being labeled a sex offender and everything that comes with it. A strong defense against your sex crime charges could not only keep you out of prison, but it could also help to keep your name off the Megan’s Law list so that you are not required to register as a sex offender later on. And if you are already subject to sex offender registration rules, having a dedicated attorney on your side can aid with the process of terminating these invasive requirements. Juvenile offenders convicted of sex crimes have even more opportunities for removal at an earlier date. Proetta & Oliver is here for you with Megan’s Law counsel and zealous representation in Hudson County and throughout New Jersey. Call (201) 793-8018 or send us a message to talk through your case free of charge.