One of the first major events following conviction for a Megan’s Law offense is the assignment of a Megan’s Law tier. There are three tiers, one for “low”; two for “moderate”, and three for “high”. The tier score is based upon an assessment of the defendant using the Registrant Risk Assessment Scale or RRAS. The purpose of the tiering is to assess the defendant’s risk of engaging in sexually inappropriate behaviors in the future. The tier classification is important because it will set the level of notification of the defendant’s presence in the community where they live. Generally speaking, defendants in the moderate or high tier are viewed as presenting an increased risk of re-offending; thus, placement in these tiers can result in local institutions, such as schools, receiving notification of the defendant’s presence in the area. It can also result in the defendant’s information being posted on the internet. A Megan’s Law attorney in New Jersey can answer questions concerning a defendant’s tier assignment and notification.
The RRAS is far from perfect. It was created in the 1990’s, based upon whatever information was then available concerning sex offenses and sex offenders. Much more is currently known about defendants who have been convicted of these offenses as well as the overall functioning of the Megan’s Law registration system, but the RRAS has not really changed. It appears to have value in determining an individual defendant’s risk level when they are sentenced, but has relatively little value in predicting long-term behavior. This is significant, since the RRAS does not account for such crucial factors as the amount of time the defendant has remained offense-free while present in the community. There is now considerable data to support the conclusion that a defendant’s age and amount of time living in the community with no new charges correlates with a reduced risk of re-offense. Thus, the value of the RRAS as a predictive tool is somewhat limited.
Nevertheless, New Jersey continues to use the RRAS to assess risk of re-offense and the corresponding level of community notification, and a defendant’s scoring is of great concern. The scoring is based upon thirteen factors divided into four areas. The first is “seriousness of offense”, which includes the degree of force used; the degree of contact; and the victim’s age. The next area concerns the defendant’s “offense history”, which includes victim selection; number of offenses or victims; the duration of the offense behavior; the length of time since the defendant’s last offense; and the defendant’s history of anti-social acts. The third area concerns “offender characteristics”, and includes the defendant’s response to sex offender treatment; and the defendant’s substance abuse history. The final area focuses on “community support”, and includes therapeutic support; residential support; and employment or education stability. The defendant is scored in each of these 13 areas and the points are then totaled up. A score of 0 to 36 places the defendant in the low tier. A score of 37 to 73 places the defendant in the moderate tier. A score of 74 to 111 places the defendant in the high tier. Some of these factors are “static”, which means the scores will never change. Others are considered “dynamic” factors, which can be reduced with supporting information. A Megan’s Law attorney in New Jersey can tell you if your score, and your tiering, can be reduced, thereby placing you in a lower tier with less extensive notification.
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