TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher which will increase penalties for failure to register as a sex offender within a municipality under the State’s Megan’s Law was signed into law today by Governor Corzine.
“New Jersey’s Megan’s Law, when enacted, was the model for community notification laws, but without proper safeguards, holes develop in the safety net,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “The previous penalties were far too lax for failure to register, and as a result, offenders could slip under the radar, lurking unknown in communities. If we’re going to make the sex offender registry effective, we need strong penalties to ensure full compliance with those the registry is intended to police.”
The new law, a Senate Committee substitute for S-716 and S-832, will amend the registration requirements currently under Megan’s Law. Under the law, the new penalties for failing to register or providing false information concerning their residence will be a fine up to $15,000 or a term of imprisonment between three to five years, or both. Failure by a sex offender to verify his or her address will be punishable with a fine of up to $10,000 and a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, or both. The bill will also supplement Megan’s Law by requiring that the address reported by the registrant on his or her registration form must be verified by the appropriate authority before he or she is released from confinement or supervision.
“Slap-on-the-wrist punishments endanger the community and violate the spirit of notification intended under Megan’s Law,” said Senator Karcher. “We cannot allow dangerous sex offenders to operate without detection simply because the penalty structure isn’t strong enough to ensure full compliance. With these new penalties in place, offenders will be put on notice – meet the notification requirements under the law or face very serious consequences.”
The Senator noted that the phrase ‘sex offenders,’ while commonly used to refer to those who prey on children, can also include serial rapists and sexual assailants also covered under Megan’s Law registration standards. She added that, while the move to increase penalties for failure to register should be seen as a significant step forward for parental notification of sexual offenders, increased awareness of offenders in the community will serve to increase safety for all.
The bill was approved unanimously by the Senate in June, and was approved by the Assembly in December.