Megan's Law - Tier Classification Appeal

New Jersey Megan's Law Criminal Attorney - Anthony N. Palumbo

New Jersey's Megan's Law requires convicted sex offenders to be listed on the state's sexual offender registry. Whether the information in an offender's registration is shared only with law enforcement officers or is posted on the internet and distributed to the general public depends on the offender's classification as low, moderate, or high risk, and getting the lowest classification possible is incredibly important to protect the offender's privacy and reputation.

If you've been convicted of a sex crime, it's essential that you have an experienced Megan's Law defense lawyer to ensure that you get an appropriate tier classification. Contact me, Anthony N. Palumbo, New Jersey sex crimes defense attorney, online or at 1-866-664-8118, to learn how I can help with your tier assignment or tier classification appeal. As a former prosecutor and public defender with more than 35 years of experience on all sides of the law, I have insight into the Megan's Law classification process and I know the best legal strategies to use on your behalf.

Megan's Law registration and scope of distribution

Megan's Law requires convicted sex offenders to provide certain information to their local law enforcement authorities or to the New Jersey State Police, including their name, social security number, age, race, sex, date of birth, height, weight, hair and eye color, address of legal residence, address of current temporary residence, date and place of employment, and any anticipated or current school enrollment. They must also provide information regarding the date and place of each conviction, fingerprints, a brief description of the crime for which registration is required, and any other information deemed necessary to assess their risk for re-offending.

After being submitted to the appropriate law enforcement authorities, sex offender registrations are shared with certain individuals and groups in the community, and some registrations are posted on the internet for public distribution, along with a photo of the offender. The scope of this distribution depends on the sex offender's classification under Megan's Law's three-tiered system:

  • Tier 1 (low risk) - registration is distributed only to law enforcement
  • Tier 2 (medium risk) - registration is distributed to law enforcement, schools, and community organizations; also distributed to the general public through the internet registry unless the sole offense was committed while the offender was a juvenile, an incest offense, or an offense where the victim consented but was underage
  • Tier 3 (high risk) - registration is distributed to law enforcement, schools, community organizations, and to the general public through the internet registry

Megan's Law tier classification process

After an offender is convicted, the prosecutor determines the risk of re-offense and assigns a tier based on the Registrant Risk Assessment Scale (RRAS), a scoring system developed by the state Attorney General. The RRAS consists of 13 separate criteria:

  1. degree of force used in the offense;
  2. degree of contact in the offense;
  3. age of the victim;
  4. victim selection;
  5. number of offenses/victims;
  6. duration of offensive behavior;
  7. length of time since last offense;
  8. history of antisocial acts;
  9. response to treatment;
  10. substance abuse problems;
  11. availability of therapeutic support;
  12. availability of residential support; and
  13. employment/educational stability.

After the prosecutor classifies an offender as low, moderate, or high risk and makes a proposal regarding the proposed scope of community notification, the offender has 14 days to raise any objections and request a Megan's Law tier classification appeal. The final tier classification is made by a judge, who either enters the prosecutor's recommendation, if unchallenged, or bases the decision on a review of the record and any filed appeals, along with any expert psychological reports or other evidence offered by the offender.

The prosecutor must apply to amend the scope of notification whenever the offender moves to a new residence or changes employment, which requires the court in such circumstances to re-evaluate the case and make a new determination regarding community notification. In cases where a relocation or employment change is significant, the offender's RRAS score may change enough to place the offender in a different tier, but the classification usually remains the same. Nevertheless, even if the same tier is assigned, the scope of community notification may be changed based on geographic considerations.

Having an attorney to protect your privacy

The disclosures required under Megan's Law carry harsh stigmas and can leave sex offenders vulnerable to discrimination from neighbors, colleagues, and other community members. To protect your privacy and avoid undue public notification of your sex offender status, you need a New Jersey defense lawyer who will defend your position and fight to get you the lowest tier classification possible. Contact me, Anthony N. Palumbo, online or at 1-866-664-8118 for a free and confidential consultation, and together we'll go through the facts and circumstances of your case, the Megan's Law tier classification and appeal procedure, and the best strategies for keeping your registration off the internet and out of the public eye.

Resources:

Administrative Office of the Courts, Criminal Practice Division, Report on Implementation of Megan's Law, Oct. 4, 2011

Attorney General Guidelines for Law Enforcement for the Implementation of Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Laws, revised Feb. 2007

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