1. Who is required to register as a sex offender?
Any person who was convicted, adjudicated delinquent or found not guilty by reason of insanity for the commission of any of the following offenses:
Aggravated Sexual Assault;
Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact;
Kidnapping, where the victim is less than 16 years of age;
Endangering the Welfare of a Minor by engaging in sexual conduct with a minor;
Endangering the Welfare of a Minor by knowingly receiving for the purpose of selling, knowingly selling, procuring, manufacturing, giving, providing, lending, trading, mailing, delivering, transferring, publishing, distributing, circulating, disseminating, presenting, exhibiting, advertising, offering or agreeing to offer, through any means; including the Internet, any photograph, film, videotape, computer program or file, video game or any other reproduction or reconstruction which depicts a child engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act;
Luring or Enticing a Minor;
Criminal Sexual Contact, if the victim is under the age of 18;
Kidnapping, Criminal Restraint, or False Imprisonment upon a person under the age of 18, where the offender was not a parent.
An attempt to commit any of these enumerated offenses would also qualify. These convictions, adjudications or acquittals by reason of insanity must have occurred AFTER OCTOBER 31, 1994; or the offender must have been serving a sentence of incarceration, probation, parole, or other form of community supervision as a result of the offense or was confined following acquittal by reason of insanity or as a result of civil commitment AFTER OCTOBER 31, 1994. These offenders must verify their residence annually with their local police department.
2. What about crimes or convictions BEFORE October 31, 1994?
If the crime or conviction occurred before October 31, 1994, only those persons who were convicted, adjudicated delinquent or found not guilty by reason of insanity for the commission of the offenses of: Aggravated Sexual Assault; Sexual Assault; Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact; or Kidnapping of a person under the age of 16 or an attempt to commit any of these offenses AND the offender’s conduct was characterized by a pattern of repetitive and compulsive behavior are required to register. These offenders must verify their residence every 90 days with their local police departments.
3. What about crimes that occurred out of state?
A conviction, adjudication of delinquency, or acquittal by reason of insanity for an offense similar to those outlined in answer 1 above OR an offender sentenced in another state on the basis of criteria similar to a finding of repetitive and compulsive behavior.
4. How does an offender register?
Once subject to Megan’s Law, an offender must go to the local police department in the town in which they are residing (this may include the State Police.) The offender is required to fill out a Uniform Bergen County Sex Offender Registration Form. This form is a multi-page document containing personal information of the offender. This form, which the offender is required to sign, also alerts the offender to his registration obligations.
5. What happens to the registration form once the offender fills it out?
The local police departments each have an officer assigned to handle Megan’s Law matters. Upon registering an offender, the Megan’s Law officer is required to verify that the offender is actually residing in the residence that is listed on their form. Once the offender’s residence is verified, the local police forward the registration to the Prosecutor’s Office.
6. Why is the registration form sent to the Prosecutor’s Office?
It is the responsibility of the Megan’s Law Unit of the County Prosecutor’s Office 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. The scale lists numerous factors to be considered in weighing the risk of re-offense, including use of force by the offender to commit the sexual offense; type of sexual offense; age of victim; relationship between the offender and the victim; number of victims and sexual offenses; duration of the sexual offense; length of time since the offense was committed; history of prior anti-social acts; offenders response to treatment and therapeutic support; substance abuse issues; current residential support and employment and/or educational stability. Once these factors are all considered the offender receives a numerical score. It is the specific score that places the offender in one of three possible tier categories. There is a separate scale for Adult Sex offenders called the Registrant Risk Assessment Scale and Juvenile Sex Offenders called the Juvenile Risk Assessment Scale.
7. What are the three tier categories and what is the difference between the tiers?
For Adult Sex Offenders, Tier I offenders are those offenders receiving a score on the scale of 36 or under. Due to their low scores these offenders are considered to be at low risk for re-offending. Tier II offenders are those offenders receiving a score of between 37-73 on the scale. These offenders are considered to be at moderate risk for re-offending. Tier III offenders are those offenders receiving a score of 74 or higher on the scale. These offenders are considered to be at high risk of re-offending. For Juvenile Sex Offenders, Tier 1 offenders are those offenders receiving a score on the scale of 9 or under. Due to their low scores these offenders are considered to be at low risk for re-offending. Tier II offenders are those offenders receiving a score of between 10-19 on the scale. These offenders are considered to be at moderate risk for re-offending. Tier III offenders are those offenders receiving a score of 20 or higher on the scale.
8. Once an offender is classified, what occurs next?
Upon completing a classification, detectives from the Prosecutor’s Office hand-serve copies of the scale and proposed classification to the offender. The offender is provided with information regarding the scale score and what tier they fall in.
9. Will the community always be notified of the presence of a sex offender?
The simple and, at times, frustrating answer is “No.” The Courts, in response to the Attorney General’s guidelines, have limited the times when community notification can occur and who in the community is entitled to that notification. Under the law, only registered community organizations that qualify for notification, because they directly care for children, women, or other vulnerable groups, schools, day care centers and summer camps are notified of moderate and high risk offenders (Tier II and Tier III) that they are likely to encounter, because of the possibility that offenders may be drawn to these places. In determining which groups, schools, etc. are likely to encounter the particular offender, the Court must consider the age of the victim of the underlying sexual offense, the relationship of the victim to the offender, and the distance of the location of the groups, schools, etc. from the offender’s residence. Once the Court approves notification to specific groups, schools, etc., then staff members at the facilities who deal directly with children or potential victims, are provided with information about the sex offender. Neighbors whose residences fall within 1000 feet of the offender’s residence will only be notified of Tier III or high-risk offenders. If an offender is a Tier I or low risk offender, then only law enforcement agencies will be notified of the offender’s presence in the community.
10. If a school receives a Tier II notification will this information be provided to the parents of children attending the school?
In the case of a Tier II offender notification, the SCHOOL IS NOT PERMITTED TO SHARE THE OFFENDER INFORMATION WITH THE PARENTS OF THEIR STUDENTS. The Courts have limited Tier II offender information only to staff, so they may protect the children or potential victims while they are located at a facility likely to encounter the sex offender. The information can not be disclosed to students or parents, and the Order signed by the Superior Court Judge advises the staff or anyone allowed to receive the information not to disseminate the information they may receive under Megan’s Law.
11. Are there any occasions when the schools, community organizations, day care centers, etc., can advise the parents or families of their students about a sex offender?
The only time that Megan’s Law information will be released to parents or families of students, is if the school receives a Tier III high risk notice concerning an offender living within a 1000 foot radius of their location. The school, community organization, day care center, etc. will then mail or hand the parents or responsible adult family member the Megan’s Law information. At no time should the school provide the information directly to the student (unless the student is over 18 years of age.) The parents can then share the information that the schools provided with anyone else in their household.
12. If I receive Megan’s Law information from the school or Prosecutor’s Office, can I share it with friends, family, and neighbors who have received the information?
Again, the simple answer is NO. Megan’s Law information is only provided to the community after a Court Order has been issued. The Order is very specific as to which location or addresses are entitled to receive the Megan’s Law information. If you receive Megan’s Law information pursuant to a Court Order, and then share that information with someone not entitled to view it, you are technically violating a Court Order, and could be charged with Contempt of Court.
13. If I am seeking to move to a new neighborhood, am I entitled to know if there are any sex offenders living in the neighborhood before I make the decision to move?
NO. There is a misunderstanding that Megan’s law information is open to the public; as explained above it is not. No information will ever be released over the telephone; the only information a citizen may receive is about Tier III, high-risk offenders living within 1000 feet of their homes. In order to receive the Tier III information, the prosecutor’s office and local police department will require identification with proof of current residency. Once identification is provided, you will receive only the information that was covered by a prior Court order. In most instances there will be no information for you to receive. As proof of residence is required, law enforcement cannot share Megan’s law information with prospective home buyers. There is, however, nothing preventing you from geographically searching the Sex Offender Internet Registry (website address located in answer 20 below) to see if there are any listings in the neighborhood in which you are seeking to move.
14. My real estate agent or attorney told me I was entitled to information about sex offenders in my community. As indicated above, unfortunately there is a great deal of misunderstanding about Megan’s Law. Until you actually move into the community, you are not entitled to any information. Upon moving into the community, you will only be entitled to Tier III high risk offender information if your new address was covered by a previous Court Order.
15. How many sex offenders are currently residing in Bergen County?
According to most recent statistics, there are approximately 700 sex offenders registered in Bergen County.
16. What happens if a sex offender does not register or fails to register with their local police department on time?
Failure to register is a third degree crime under N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2. It is also a third degree crime under N.J.S.A. 2C: 7-2e for a registrant to knowingly provide false information concerning his place of residence or to fail to verify his address with the appropriate law enforcement agency. Third degree crimes are punishable with a sentence of up to 5 years in State prison.
17. What happens if a sex offender registers with a local police department and then changes his address or moves to another town?
The sex offender is required to report every change of address to their local police department and then register with the new town if they change towns. Failure to provide ten day notice in advance of any move is also a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2 and a 3rd degree crime.
18. If I know someone has been convicted of a crime requiring they register should I call the police?
You can always provide information concerning a sex offender to the local police or Prosecutor’s Office. Please remember that law enforcement will not be able to advise you whether or not that particular person is registered, and if so, where.
19. Is Megan’s Law information available on the Internet?
On July 23, 2001, Acting Governor DiFrancesco did sign into law legislation that will post some Megan’s Law information on the Internet in a Sex Offender Internet Registry. The law limits the information to be placed on the Internet to include only Tier III and certain Tier II offenders. The law specifically excludes from the Internet information about all Tier I offenders, juvenile sex offenders, most sex offenders whose crimes were committed against members of their families or households (incest crimes), and most sex offenders whose crimes were considered statutory (the victim of the underlying sex offense was too young to give their consent to any sexual activity). The law also allows offenders to challenge, in Court, their information being placed on to the Website. After the entry of a Court order, the approved sex offender information is placed on the Internet Registry. You can reach the Sex Offender Registry through the State Police Website at www.njsp.org. The Website is designed to perform geographic, individual, advanced, and vehicle searches. The Website now includes offender’s home addresses as well. Due to the specific limitations and exemptions set out in the law, only 20 – 25 % of the sex offenders registered in Bergen County have their information posted on the Internet Registry.
20. Does Megan’s Law specifically prohibit where a sex offender can reside?
The simple answer is “No, but our parole laws might.” Megan’s law only requires that the sex offender register their address. It does not restrict where they can live, e.g., near a school, park or play ground, etc. The purpose of the law is to insure that law enforcement agencies and, in some cases, the general public, are kept apprised of a registrant’s address. However, our laws permit Parole Officers to place restrictions on a sex offender’s work place or residence if the offender is serving a special sentence of Community or Parole Supervision for Life. Those limitations are not always known to the general public.