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 Assembly Judiciary Committee today by a vote of 6-0.
“When Megan’s Law was first enacted into law, it was the premiere community notification law, giving parents the tools they need to keep their kids safe,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “However, over the years, the effectiveness of the Megan’s Law safety net has eroded, as sexual offenders found ways to avoid registration and continue preying on children. We need to put teeth back in the registration penalties, so sexual offenders cannot elude the proper authorities to continue hurting kids.”
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.
“Megan’s Law is an effective tool to keep the community safe, but only if we can ensure that the most dangerous offenders are registering with the proper authorities,” said Senator Karcher. “By increasing the penalties on failing to register, we would provide a greater deterrent to those who may seek to continue exploiting kids in relative anonymity within the community.”
The Senator also noted that her bill applies to other sex offenders who may have to register with their local authorities, such as rapists, who may not necessarily be targeting underage children but still fall under the registration requirement in Megan’s Law. Senator Karcher added that increased registration of sex offenders would help ensure the safety of the entire community, not just the children who live there.
The bill was approved by the Senate by a vote of 39-0 in June, and now heads to the full Assembly for final legislative consideration.