I was recently contacted by the Asbury Park Press to discuss Megan’s Law and the recent development that allows certain Megan’s Law registrants to be removed from registration requirements if certain criteria are met.
Megan’s Law was enacted and became effective on October 31, 1994. This statute requires a defendant who has been convicted of certain enumerated sex offenses to register with the police department in the municipality in which they reside. The police will also notify neighbors and local schools of the registrant’s existence and the registrant’s photograph will be posted on an internet database.
The legislature saw fit, when enacting this statute, to allow certain registrants to file a Motion to be removed from registration requirements if certain criteria are established. The Megan’s Law statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(f), governs the filing of this motion and provides:
f. Except as provided in subsection g. of this section, a person required to register under this act may make application to the Superior Court of this State to terminate the obligation upon proof that the person has not committed an offense within 15 years following conviction or release from a correctional facility for any term of imprisonment imposed, whichever is later, and is not likely to pose a threat to the safety of others.
As a result, there are several requirements for this Motion to be filed. First, the registrant must not have committed any offenses in fifteen (15) years since the conviction or their release from prison. This means that the registrant has lived as a lawful member of society for fifteen (15) years, during which the registrant has complied with all the registration requirements of Megan’s Law. The failure to do so would result in a conviction for failure to register as a sex offender under N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2.
Moreover, the registrant must also convince the Court that the registrant “is not likely to pose a threat to the safety of others”. This is typically accomplished through the use of a comprehensive psychological evaluation conducted by a licensed professional. The psychologist then provides the Court with a report detailing the initial offense and the likelihood that the registrant poses a threat to the community.
Finally, subsection (g) prevents registrants who have been convicted of certain serious crimes from ever being removed from Megan’s Law registration requirements. A registrant who meets the above criteria, and is not statutorily barred by subsection (g), is eligible to be removed from Megan’s Law through the filing of a Motion to the Assignment Judge in the Superior Court in which they are currently registered (and therefore the County in which they reside).
It is my experience that this is a positive removal provision and was created by the Legislature for a reason. Those individuals who have been convicted of serious sex crimes or pose a threat to the safety of others and the community, are not even eligible to file this motion for removal. Moreover, the Assignment Judge (the chief judge in the County), reviews these motions on a case by case basis and the Prosecutor’s Office has an opportunity to object and oppose the motion for removal if they wish. Therefore, there are many safeguards in place to ensure that only those individuals who deserve to be removed from Megan’s Law regisration requirements are removed from same.