Tragedy in Hamilton Township, NJ
In July 1994, convicted sexual offender Jesse Timmendequas brutally raped and strangled Megan Kanka to death across the street from her New Jersey home. Megan was only 7 years old. Kanka’s family felt that, had they known a convicted sex offender lived nearby, they could have better protected their daughter and their family.
This tragic incident prompted a three month campaign that would soon inspire Megan’s Law, a ruling that requires notification of high-risk sex offenders’ whereabouts to be made public.
Megan’s Law in Action
After becoming New Jersey law in 1994, Megan’s Law was signed into federal law as of 1996 and is implemented across all 50 states. The controversial law has caught some backlash throughout the years for its privacy infringement and potential to victimize offenders who pose little to no threat to the community. However, Megan’s Law continues to prevail and officials are pleased with its progression.
Initially, the purpose of Megan’s Law was to help notify communities and neighborhoods when sex offenders lived or moved close by. The law requires convicted sexual offenders to register with the proper authorities, and neighboring communities, schools and organizations are made aware of their presence. It has since grown into a vast online community of registrants, including those with one-time and repeating offenses.
The New Jersey online registry includes the sex offender’s name, descriptions of the conviction and offense, address and a photograph of moderate to high-risk offenders. All of this information is available for public review, now accessible through a 900 number and CDs at police stations around the state. Details and extensive information on low-risk offenders are only made available to law enforcement and officials.
Megan’s Law Crimes
Convictions or adjudications of the following crimes require a person to register under Megan’s Law:
- Aggravated Sexual Assault
- Sexual Assault
- Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact
- Criminal Sexual Contact (if victim is a minor)
- Kidnapping (if victim is under 16 years of age)
- Endangering the Welfare of a Child (in certain circumstances)
- False Imprisonment (if victim is a minor)
Community Notice of Convicted Offenders
To ensure a community’s safety, local organizations and corresponding law enforcement must be notified of an offender’s release. The State Department of Corrections and Human Services are responsible for informing county prosecutors and law enforcement agencies about the presence of all sex offenders within the community. In turn, the prosecutors must determine risk to the community – the likelihood that the offender will commit another crime.
Prosecutors classify sex offenders who reside in the community as one of three tiers, based on the degree of risk they pose to the public:
- Tier 1 Offenders – Sex offenders present a low risk of re-offense.
- Tier 2 Offenders – Sex offenders post a moderate risk of re-offense.
- Tier 3 Offenders – Sex offenders show a relatively high risk of re-offense.
The sex offender internet registry includes information pertaining to sex offenders within Tier 3 and some Tier 2 offenders. However, it excludes any information about those in Tier 1. Offenders who challenge the prosecutor’s risk determination receive hearings. Notification can proceed when the court issues a final order authorizing the county prosecutor to provide relevant information to the appropriate groups of individuals.
Removal from Megan’s Law
Sex offenders may apply to the Superior Court of New Jersey to terminate their Megan’s Law requirement. This is only permitted if the offender has not committed another offense within 15 years following their conviction or release from a correctional facility.
Legal Support with Megan’s Law
Megan Kanka’s death was a major blow to the New Jersey community. However, her death is a reminder that we should do all we can to secure the safety of our families and our children. Take advantage of the resources provided to the public and don’t hesitate on asking questions.
If you have questions regarding Megan’s Law or sexual assault charges in New Jersey, Daniel M. Rosenberg & Associates are available to help. Call us today at (609) 216-7400 to get a free consultation on your case.