Sex offender registration is one of the most emotionally charged legal issues in the country today. New Jersey mandates sex offender registration with the state through federal legislation, commonly known as Megan’s Law, and makes information about registered sex offenders available freely online. However, the state has strict rules regarding the use of the information. Abusing the sex offender registry is a crime, and New Jersey will prosecute those who use the registry for unlawful purposes.People accessing New Jersey’s online database can only use it for decisions regarding their personal or family safety. Using it to deny or restrict health insurance, to deny personal loans or to deny education is strictly prohibited. Business should still provide services to registered sex offenders, unless the denial is for public safety purposes.Anyone who uses the registry to commit a disorderly person’s act, such as harassment, will be charged with a disorderly person’s offense and faces a $500 to $1,000 fine. This would include making unsolicited and unwanted contact with the sex offender, his or her family or damaging the offender’s property. If a person uses the registry to commit a crime, he or she will be charged with a crime in the third degree for illegally using the registry, along with the crime he or she committed against the sex offender. If a person commits a criminal offense against a registered sex offender, and it is revealed he or she obtained that information through New Jersey’s online registry, an inference arises that the person used the registry illegally.
National Sex Offender Registration Laws in New Jersey
When Megan’s Law first passed in New Jersey (the first state to adopt Megan’s Law), officials believed sex offender registration would deter future offenses. A study by the U.S. Department of Justice calls that theory into question. The study reviewed sex offenses in New Jersey for 10 years before and 10 years after Megan’s Law was enacted. It found that sex offender registration made no difference in recidivism rates, as both before and after Megan’s Law 95 percent of new convictions were people with no prior sex offense convictions.
New Jersey did not meet the federal deadline to enact the Adam Walsh Act, which is newer federal legislation that attempted to set minimum standards for sex offender registration across the nation. Many states have failed to comply, as questions arose regarding the cost of enactment. Some states, such as California, also voiced disagreement with the Act’s treatment of the registration of juvenile sex offenders.
Due to the social stigma facing those accused of a sex crime, retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential to protecting your rights. You may be able to fight under which tier of sex offender you must register, which can greatly affect the impact of a sex crime conviction on your life. In addition, with complicated federal and state registry laws, a lawyer knowledgeable about Megan’s Law can advise on properly registering with the state.