If you’re charged with child sexual assault, a conviction can lead to prison time, lifetime parole and, most seriously, registration on the sex offender registry known as Megan’s Law. Registration on this list severely restricts your life, including limits on where you might work or live. Your photograph may even be posted online in an Internet database, stigmatizing you further and possibly making you vulnerable to harassment — even if you have served your time.
However, what you may not know is that Megan’s Law allows for different tiers of classification. These tiers, from low risk to high risk, can drastically effect the consequences of Megan’s Law on your life. Your defense attorney works to not only get you classified on the lowest tier possible, but also get you removed from Megan’s List as soon as the law allows.
How Megan’s Law Works
Enacted in 1994, Megan’s Law is named for Megan Kanka, who was raped and murdered in Hamilton, New Jersey by a neighbor who happened to be a previous sex offender. This law requires convicted sex offenders to register on a list, notifying their neighbors and community of their sex offender status. If you don’t register, you’re likely looking at additional jail time and other penalties.
Here are some common questions defense attorneys often hear regarding Megan’s Law:
• Who has to register on the sex offender list? Anyone who’s been found guilty of child sexual assault or any other child-related sex crime must register. You’ll be classified as Tier I (low-risk), Tier II (moderate risk), or Tier (III) high risk. You’re also entitled to a hearing before final classification.
• What do the Tiers mean? A Tier I classification means law enforcement is notified of your status. Tier II means law enforcement, schools, day care centers, summer camps, and registered community organizations are also notified. Tier III notifies all of these plus the general public.
• Are juvenile sex offenders required to register? Yes.
• What if I move to another address? You must report your change of address to local police at least 10 days prior to your move.
• Will I be on Megan’s List forever? You can file an application for removal after 15 years of good behavior. Your criminal defense lawyer in New Jersey can do this on your behalf.
Removal from the Sex Offender Registry
Megan’s Law is a great asset to law enforcement officials in preventing repeat child sexual assault offenses. However, what if you were wrongly accused of sexual assault? Or, what happens if you have served your time? Is it fair to be stigmatized and punished for the rest of your life? This is especially critical if you are (or were) a juvenile at the time of your conviction. It may feel like you have no options, but your defense attorney can help.
If, after 15 years, you have not committed an offense after release from incarceration or after conviction, you can petition for removal from the Megan’s Law sex offender registry. Your lawyer will work with you and a qualified psychologist to file this petition, and show the courts you are not a threat to the community. If an offender was under 14 years old when charged with child sexual assault, he or she can be eligible for petition at age 18, depending on the circumstances of the offense. Removal from the list allows you to move on with your life without embarrassment or stigma, and gives you a chance to start over.
A Megan’s Law Defense Attorney Can Help
If you or a loved one is charged with any sex crime, you don’t have to suffer for the rest of your life. Whether you made a terrible, one-time mistake or were wrongly accused of sexual assault, a sympathetic lawyer can help you with your case.