Sex-offender relocation disclosure ruled unconstitutional
NEW JERSEY — A New Jersey statute authorizing prosecutors to notify communities when convicted sex offenders move nearby violates the U.S. Constitution when applied to people convicted before a late-October 1994 effective date, according to a late-February U.S. District Court ruling.
New Jersey Federal District Judge Nicholas Politan of Newark analogized the provision to “branding,” and concluded it violates the Constitution by changing the punishment for a crime after it is committed. However, the judge upheld the law’s requirement that offenders register their names, addresses and other personal information with local police.
The New Jersey legislature passed the statute, often referred to as Megan’s Law, after a man twice convicted of sexual offenses was charged with killing his 7-year- old neighbor Megan Kanka.
Under the law as written, prosecutors provide personal information to local police about people classified as low-risk repeat offenders. Information about moderate-risk offenders is provided to facilities in charge of children, such as schools and day care centers. High-risk offender data is disseminated communitywide through posters, mailings, meetings and the media.
Politan’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by a New Jersey resident released from prison in 1992 after serving a 20 year sentence for sodomy. The Attorney General’s office says it plans to appeal Politan’s ruling.
(Artway v. Attorney General)