Prompted by the tragic murders of Megan Kanka
and Amanda Wengert, citizens of this state demanded a law that
would let them know when a convicted sex offender is living in
their neighborhood. Then Governor Christine Todd Whitman and the
state Legislature responded by approving a series of laws collectively
known as "Megan's Law".
Megan's Law created a registration and notification procedure
to alert law enforcement, schools, community organizations and
neighbors to the presence of a sex offender who authorities believe
may pose a risk to the community.
New Jersey's law, commonly known as "Megan's Law," requires
convicted sex offenders to register with local police. Megan's
Law also establishes a three-tier notification process to provide
information about offenders to law enforcement agencies and, when
appropriate, to the public. The type of notification is based
on an evaluation of the risk to the community from a particular
offender. The Attorney General's Office, in consultation with
a special 12-member council and experts in the fields of mental
health and law enforcement, has provided county prosecutors who
must make that evaluation, with the scale to be used in determining
the level of risk posed by the offender.
COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT MEGAN'S LAW
Q. Are all sex offenders required to register with local police?
A. Sex offenders who have been released from custody since Megan's
Law went into effect on Oct. 31, 1994, are required to register
with the police. In addition, offenders who were on parole or
probation on the effective date of the law, as well as offenders
who have been found to be repetitive and compulsive by experts
and the courts - regardless of the date of sentence - are required
to register. Some registrants must verify their address annually;
others must verify their address every 90 days.
Q. Will I always be notified if a convicted sex offender moves
into my neighborhood?
A. Under the law, sex offenders who reside in the community are
classified by prosecutors in one of three "tiers" based
on the degree of risk they pose to the public: High (Tier 3),
Moderate (Tier 2) or Low (Tier 1).
Q. Who gets notified for each classification (Tier)?
A. Low : Tier 1 : Police only.
Moderate : Tier 2 :Registered community organizations involved
with children or with victims of sexual abuse, schools, day care
centers, and summer camps.
High : Tier 3 :All of the above as well as neighbors.
Q. What factors are considered in determining the risk of re-offense?
A. Megan's Law and its guidelines list numerous factors to be
considered in weighing the risk of re-offense, including past-incarceration
supervision, the status of therapy or counseling, criminal background,
degree of remorse for criminal acts, substance abuse, employment
or schooling status, psychological or psychiatric profile and
a history of threats or of stalking locations where children congregate.
Q. What information is provided in a notification?
A. In all three levels of notification, the information provided
includes the offender's name, description and photograph, address,
place of employment or school if applicable, a description of
the offender's vehicle and license plate number and a brief description
of the offense.
Q. What should I do if I receive a notification?
A. Reinforce general precautions about staying away from strangers
and ask your children to tell you or their caretakers where they
will be at all times. Use the information responsibly. Talk to
your children. Tell them to treat the sex offender as a stranger.
Tell them where the sex offender lives, what he or she looks like
and what to do if they encounter or are approached by that person.
If you believe that a crime is being committed by a sex offender
contact your local law enforcement agency immediately as you would
do in any case of suspected criminal activity.
Q. Are there any other steps I can take to protect my family?
A. Yes. There is no law that can ever completely protect us. Adults
need to teach children about basic safety precautions. Check with
your child's school to determine whether a program is in place
to teach children about strangers. Also, check with the school
and other locations where your child spends time on a regular
basis to determine whether safety precautions are in place.
Q. What am I prohibited from doing?
A. The prosecutor and the courts are responsible to determine
who should receive notice about the presence of a particular individual
in the community. You should not take it upon yourself to provide
any information you receive to others in the community: that is
the job of the prosecutor and local law enforcement. Any actions
taken against the individual named in the notification, including
vandalism of property, verbal or written threats of harm, or physical
violence against this person, his or her family or employer, will
result in arrest and prosecution for criminal acts. Vigilantism
is not only a crime, it is an action that will undermine the efforts
of those who have worked hard to enact this law.
Link to www.meganslaw.org
then go to: 'klass kids' and click on 'Megan's law in all 50 states'
for more information.