Last week, the New Jersey Supreme Court handed down its decision in Matter of Registrant HD/Matter of Registrant JM. This decision is important for anyone seeking relief from their Megan’s Law and/or CSL/PSL obligations.
One of the requirements for relief from Megan’s and CSL/PSL is that the defendant must have remained offense-free for fifteen years from the date of their conviction (typically the date of their sentence), or from the date that they were released from custody, whichever is later. The question before the Court was whether HD and JM, each of whom committed new offenses during their fifteen-year period but then remained offense free for fifteen years from then, could be taken off Megan’s. Put somewhat differently, the Court was asked to determine whether the new offense(s) causes the fifteen-year clock to start to run again, or if it bars these defendants from seeking relief because they each committed a new offense within the initial fifteen-year period. The Appellate Division had found that the new offense had started the fifteen-year period to commence again and that the defendants were therefore eligible for relief because they remained offense-free for another fifteen years following the subsequent offense. In light of a thorough analysis of the relevant statutes, the Supreme Court reversed. Thus, an offense committed within the fifteen-year period will bar relief.
We firmly believe that these statutes are onerous, needlessly burdensome, and counterproductive insofar as they actually prevent defendants from starting life again as positive and productive citizens. Additionally, and so far as we know, there is no empirical date which demonstrates that anyone actually benefits from Megan’s Law and CSL/PSL. There is no proof that it really makes communities safer. However, and given the number of people who consult with and retain us on these issues, and in light of this new decision, we believe this is a good time to review the basic criteria for removal.
N.J.S.A. 2c:7-2f sets out two of the requirements. First, the defendant must have remained offense-free for 15 years from either the date of their conviction or the date of their release from custody, whichever is later. Because of the HD/JM decision, any offenses committed during the fifteen-year period will not start the clock again, but will bar the defendant from seeking relief from their registration, reporting and supervision requirements. The defendant must also be able to demonstrate that they are not a threat to the community. This is typically done by producing a favorable psychological evaluation prepared by a forensic psychologist who was retained by defense counsel in connection with the motion. The other requirements for relief are stated in N.J.S.A. 2c:7-2g. Defendants who were convicted of: (a) more than one sex offense as defined in N.J.S.A. 2c:7-2b; (b) aggravated sexual assault pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2c:14-2a; or sexual assault pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2c:14-2c(1), are not eligible for relief under subsection f. Only an experienced New Jersey Megan’s Law attorney can tell you if you qualify for relief.
The psychological evaluation that accompanies the motion for removal should be prepared by a forensic psychologist who has experience with Megan’s Law and sex offense issues. Not every psychologist can prepare an evaluation for purposes of this motion. A New Jersey sex offense lawyer can refer you to a psychologist who can handle this properly. Additionally, note that many defendants with these charges have had some sort of mental health counseling or therapy since their conviction. The psychologist who prepares the report will want to know about this therapy in connection with their evaluation, and will want to review any related paperwork (reports, test results, etc.), that may be available. Ideally, defendants seeking to file this motion should contact their prior therapists and obtain their file so that it will be available for review by the forensic psychologist.
James S. Friedman, Esq., is a sex offense attorney in New Jersey who represents defendants charged with sex crimes, as well as defendants seeking to be relieved of their Megan’s Law and CSL/PSL obligations. If you have been charged with a New Jersey sex crime, or are on Megan’s or CSL/PSL and have had enough, contact Mr. Friedman for a free consultation.