Prompted by the tragic murders of Megan Kanka and Amanda Wengert, the New Jersey Legislature passed a series of statutes commonly known as “Megan’s Law.” Signed into legislation on October 31, 1994, Megan’s Law created a sex offender registry and established a community notification procedure. Its purpose is to provide pertinent information to law enforcement and, in appropriate circumstances, community members apt to encounter the offender.
Individuals subject to Megan’s Law must report to the local police department in the town they are residing. They complete forms providing information on their residence, employment and motor vehicle. Individuals are also fingerprinted. This information is provided to the county Prosecutor’s Office and to the state police.
Who is required to register?
Sex offenders who have been released from custody since October 31, 1994, must register. Sex offenders who were on parole or probation at that time are also required to register. Additionally, all offenders found to be repetitive and compulsive by experts and the court are required to register, regardless of the date of conviction. Compulsive and repetitive offenders are required to re-register every 90 days. All other offenders must re-register annually.
Crimes requiring registration
Adults and juveniles convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity for the commission of any of the following offenses:
- Aggravated Sexual Assault
- Sexual Assault
- Aggravated Sexual Contact
- Sexual Contact where the victim is less than 18 years old
- Endangering the Welfare of a Child involving sexual conduct
- Endangering the Welfare of a Child involving child pornography
- Luring of a child
- Kidnapping of a child less than 18 years old by someone who is not their parent or guardian
- Criminal Restraint where the victim is less than 18 years old by someone who is not their parent or guardian
- Attempt of any of the above
It is the responsibility of the Megan’s Law Unit to classify every registered offender as to a specific tier or risk of re-offense. This process involves utilizing a specially designed risk assessment scale for each offender. Once all of these factors are considered, the offender is placed in one of three tiers based upon the level of risk the offender poses to the community:
- Tier 1 – Registrants whose risk of re-offense is considered low
- Tier 2 – Registrants whose risk of re-offense is considered moderate
- Tier 3 – Registrants whose risk of re-offense is considered high
A hearing is held and a Superior Court judge issues an order finalizing the tier for the purpose of community notification. The scope of notification depends upon the tier classification:
- Tier 1 – Notice is only given to police in the towns where the registrant lives, works or attends school
- Tier 2 – Notice is given to police in the towns where the registrant lives, works or attends school, and schools and registered community groups likely to encounter the offender
- Tier 3 – In addition to the aforementioned groups, notice is given to members of the general public likely to encounter the offender
Schools or Community Groups
Schools, licensed day care facilities and summer camps likely to encounter a particular offender are automatically included under Megan’s Law notification. Other groups must apply to the county prosecutor for consideration. A requirement for qualification is that the group, organization or agency own or operate an establishment where children gather under their care, or where the organization cares for women or other vulnerable groups. The county prosecutor must reject any application that does not meet the requirement.
The New Jersey State Police maintains a sex offender registry on the Internet. This registry includes all Tier 3 offenders and some Tier 2 offenders. The law excludes all juvenile sex offenders (except for Tier 3), most Tier 2 offenders whose crimes were committed against members of their families or households, and most Tier 2 offenders whose crimes were considered statutory because of age. Tier 1 offenders are not included on the Internet Registry.
Please refer to the following links for more information on Megan’s Law: