TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher which would increase penalties for failure to register as a sex offender within a municipality under the State’s Megan’s Law was approved by the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee by a vote of 4-0.
“Megan’s Law revolutionized notification for parents of the danger lurking next door in terms of a sex offender moving into the neighborhood,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “However, notification only works if the offender complies with the municipal registration requirement under the law. By strengthening the penalties for failure to register, we are providing a real disincentive for sex offenders to hide their identities and shirk the built-in safety regulations under Megan’s Law.”
The bill, a Senate Committee substitute for S-716 and S-832, would amend the registration requirements currently under Megan’s Law. Under the bill, the penalties for failing to register or providing false information concerning their residence would 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, as currently required, would be punishable with a fine of up to $10,000 and a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, or both. The bill would 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.
“In the years since Megan’s Law was first signed into law in 1994, we’ve seen a number of cases where sex offenders have still attacked our kids in relative anonymity,” said Senator Karcher. “Each time it happens, everyone asks why they weren’t notified when the offender moved into the neighborhood. The one flaw in Megan’s Law, as it currently stands, is that offenders can completely circumvent notification standards with a relatively small penalty, but this bill would bring the penalties more in line with the crime.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.