New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney Blog Covering New Jersey and Federal Criminal Law and Procedure

New NJ Supreme Court Decision Makes Termination of Megan’s Law Obligations More Difficult

Megan’s Law provides that registrants who have not re-offended within 15 years of their conviction or release from custody, whichever is later, and are unlikely to pose a safety threat to others, can be relieved of their registration and reporting obligations.  Given the burdens of Megan’s Law and the restrictions it places on many aspects of daily living, many registrants “watch the clock”, with an eye toward moving for a court order relieving them of their obligations as promptly as possible.  A recent New Jersey Supreme Court case has, however, made it more difficult to succeed on such a motion.

In the Matter of AD, JB and CM was decided on February 7, 2017.  The case involved three registrants who sought relief from their Megan’s requirements.  AD was convicted of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child, which triggered Megan’s Law reporting and registration obligations.  He moved to be relieved of these restrictions 15 years after his conviction.  Initially, his motion was unopposed, and was apparently successful.  However, while on supervision, he had been convicted of violating a condition of his Megan’s sentence by not notifying his parole officer of a change of address.  The State eventually learned of this and sought reconsideration of the Court’s Order removing him from Megan’s.  AD’s argued that his application should be granted because the offense he committed was not a sex offense, but this was rejected.  Similarly, JB was convicted of second-degree sexual assault.  During his term of supervision, he failed to notify law enforcement of a change of address and, as a result, ultimately pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree offense.  This charge and guilty plea ultimately resulted in the denial of his application to be relieved of registration and reporting requirements.  The Court rejected his argument that the offense he pleaded guilty to during his term of supervision should not bar his application because it was not a sex offense.  Finally, CM pleaded guilty to third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact and was required to comply with Megan’s Law.  He later applied to terminate his Megan’s obligations, but this application was denied because he violated a final restraining order during his term of Megan’s supervision.  Once again, the trial court rejected the argument that this offense was irrelevant because it was not a sex offense.

The issue before the Supreme Court in each of these cases was whether the term “offense” as used in the relevant provision of the registration and reporting statute referred only to a sex offense, or to a broader category of activities that included crimes, disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses.  Put somewhat differently, did the term “offense” in the registration statute mean sex offense, or any criminal offense?The Supreme Court held that the term offense was not restricted only to sex offenses, but rather applied to the very broad category of crimes, DPs and PDPs.  Thus, any criminal offense committed within the 15-year period of supervision can result in a denial of an application to be relieved of Megan’s Law registration and reporting requirements.

Megan’s Law is probably one of the worst ideas ever conceived.  It is hugely expensive to maintain, and the taxpayers foot the bill.  It is also fundamentally unfair.  First, this class of offenders is instructed to live within society, only to have their daily lives made difficult – if not impossible – by the seemingly endless registration and reporting requirements.  Additionally, and as many of my clients have told me, the parole officers who are responsible for supervising these people can be absolutely sadistic in how they treat registrants.  Finally, and to my knowledge, there is no empirical data demonstrating that the Megan’s law regimen accomplishes the goals of registrant rehabilitation and community safety.  The Supreme Court’s case worsens this situation by making it even more difficult to be relieved of registration obligations.

Located in New Brunswick in the heart of Middlesex County, criminal defense firm James S. Friedman, LLC, represents criminal defendants in the Superior Court of New Jersey in all counties, the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the United States District Courts located in New Jersey and New York City, and all New Jersey municipal Courts.  The firm also represents defendants seeking to appeal criminal convictions to the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  Contact us today of you have criminal charges, or seek to appeal a criminal conviction.