Failing to Register as a Sex Offender is a serious crime in New Jersey and a violation of the “Megan’s Law.” In 1994, a seven-year-old girl named Megan Kanka was raped and murdered by her neighbor in Hamilton Township, Mercer County. The murder attracted national attention and caused the New Jersey legislature to create the “Megan’s Law,” which requires the life-long registration of people convicted of sexual offenses, under N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2. In this article, we examine Megan’s Law, sex offender registration laws, and consequences for failure to register.
More About Megan’s Law
Megan Kanka was a seven-year-old girl who was raped and murdered by a local neighbor. At first, this appeared to be a horrific but random crime. Then, her family and community learned more about her killer. Jesse Timmendequas was a convicted sex offender. He had been released after serving a maximum sentence. Unfortunately, no one in the community was aware of his conviction. Megan’s family and friends were convinced that if the community was aware that a convicted sex offender was living in their neighborhood, they could have protected Megan from this person.
It wasn’t long before the community banded together to respond to this event. Because of the nature of Megan’s death and other sex crimes reported in the area, community members successfully lobbied for the enactment of a law that would require sex offender registration. A sex offender would legally have to register themselves into a database. In addition, the public would receive notification that a sex offender is living and working in the community.
Now, every state in the United States has passed legislation that is similar to Megan’s Law. While some may feel that sex offender registrations don’t help, others will disagree. The point of a law like this is to allow the public to be proactive if they wish. For instance, they can instruct children and teens to avoid a sex offender’s residence or place of employment. Many people in this community felt that a registration system can at least give them an awareness that there could be a potential danger in the neighborhood.
How Megan’s Law is Enforced in New Jersey
Since Megan’s Law originated in a town in New Jersey, the state has created an efficient system to enforce Megan’s Law. Sex offenders are required to register with the local police department within a specified time after they are released from prison. In New Jersey, registration and notification are actually two different steps. These steps are likely referred to as one single procedure in other states. How the public or past victims are notified will be determined by the level of risk the state believes the offender has on a community. That’s when the tiered-system comes into play.
Tier One: Offenders who represent the lowest risk are placed in tier one. They are only required to notify law enforcement officials and the victims after release. These are normally misdemeanors that involve offenses like public exposure.
Tier Two: An offender who is placed in tier two is considered a moderate risk. They may be considered at moderate risk of re-offending as well. Tier two requires sex offenders to notify all organizations, educational institutions, day care centers and summer camps that are within a radius of their home and employment. These crimes are felonies. They involve crimes of sexual abuse or exploitation. They may have had victims that are minors. This would include crimes such as production and distribution of child pornography.
Tier Three: Tier three offenders are predicted to present the greatest risk to the community. They’re deemed most likely to re-offend. Criminal sex offenders will always try to be categorized as a tier one or tier two offender. This is because this tier results in the broadest notification procedures. The public is notified through posters, pamphlets, community boards, and online resources. These may include crimes such as sexual assaults, sexual contact with a minor under the age of 13, or non-parental kidnapping of a minor.
Can a Tier Classification Be Challenged?
Some feel as though a tier three level of public notification can seriously infringe on a released sex offender’s ability to live an prosper in any particular neighborhood. If you feel you were wrongly classified in a tier that didn’t justly represent your offense, you should speak with a criminal defense lawyer. It is indeed possible to challenge Megan’s Law tiered classification. Challenges to tier classification will normally take place in the county where the offense took place. Despite the public debate on this topic, failure to register under the specific laws that connect with each tier can result in heavy legal consequences.
Offenses That Require Registration
The law lists the offenses requiring registration. These include:
- aggravated sexual assault
- sexual assault
- aggravated criminal sexual contact
- criminal sexual contact if the victim is a minor
- endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct
- endangering the welfare of a child through acts involving pornography featuring a child
- promoting the prostitution of a child
- luring or enticing, kidnapping, criminal restraint, and false imprisonment if the victim is a minor and the offender is not a parent of the victim.
A conviction of one of these crimes will require the person to register as a sex offender.
How Does a Sex Offender Register?
The sex offenders must fill out a registration form and submit it to a local police department. This registration will record personal information of the sex offender, including a home address and any employment. Sex offenders are required to report every change of address. Sex offenders must notify the local police at least 10 days prior to the move. In addition, some sex offenders must verify their addresses every 90 days and others must verify their address annually.
Sex offenders convicted in another state are required to register within 10 days of moving to New Jersey. In addition, sex offenders convicted in another state are required to register even if they are just attending a school or are employed in New Jersey.
Failure to Register Under Megan’s Law is a Crime.
As we mentioned in the introduction, failure to register is a crime. In order for the Prosecution to prove that you failed to register as a sex offender, they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following elements:
(1) You were required by law to register as a sex offender; and
(2) You knowingly failed to register as required.
Failure to register under Megan’s Law is a third-degree criminal offense in New Jersey. Third-degree offenses can result in between three to five years in New Jersey State Prison. You need help immediately if you are charged with failing to register.
Federal Penalties for Failure to Register
There are indeed federal penalties for failure to register. Under 18 U.S.C. §2250, failure to register results in a federal criminal penalty of up to 10 years in prison. This is due to SORNA (Sex Offenders Registration and Notification Act). Those who knowingly fail to register or update their registration can face these penalties. When circumstances supporting federal jurisdiction exist, such as interstate or international travel or travel on or off an Indian reservation by a sex offender, or conviction of a federal sex offense, registration is also required.
Hiring an Experienced New Jersey Attorney for Failure to Register Charges
Attorney Douglas Herring is an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney who will help you fight your charge. Mr. Herring is a former prosecutor in State and Federal Court. He will review your case and work with you to determine a plan to give you the best defense possible. He will file motions for you in court and he will determine how to effectively argue your case to convince the prosecutor or the judge that the case is weak and the charges should be dismissed. In many situations, Mr. Herring can assist you with seeking treatment if you feel you have a drug problem.
Mr. Herring handles cases in New Jersey Courts, including Middlesex, Somerset, Mercer, Monmouth, and Hunterdon counties. Mr. Herring will go to court with you and assist in getting you released from custody and explaining to the judge why you should not be held in jail. He can also assist in having a bail bondsman in court to facilitate an immediate release from custody. When you learn there is a New Jersey case filed against you, please contact New Jersey criminal defense attorney Douglas Herring for a free consultation. You can call our office toll free at (844) NJ Accused (844-652-2287) or (609) 256-4098, (732) 339-3968, (908) 552-0828 or reach us by completing the form on our contact page or by sending an e-mail. We are available every day of the year, 24 hours a day.
Mr. Herring handles cases in New Jersey Courts, including Middlesex, Somerset, Mercer, Monmouth, and Hunterdon counties. Mr. Herring will go to court with you and assist in getting you released from custody and explaining to the judge why you should not be held in jail. He can also assist in having a bail bondsman in court to facilitate an immediate release from custody.
When you learn there is a New Jersey case filed against you, please contact New Jersey criminal defense attorney Douglas Herring for a free consultation. You can call our office toll free at (844) NJ Accused (844-652-2287) or (609) 256-4098, (732) 339-3968, (908) 552-0828or reach us by completing the form on our contact page or by sending an e-mail. We are available every day of the year, 24 hours a day.