Submitted by New Jersey Sex Crime Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
ARE PERSONS IN NEW JERSEY WHO ARE SUBJECT TO MEGAN’S LAW REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS OBLIGATED TO REGISTER AT EACH RESIDENCE WHERE THEY SLEEP? YES, YES, AND YES!!!! IF YOU DO NOT YOU WILL BE SUBJECT TO AN ADDITIONAL ‘FAIURE TO REGISTER’ CHARGE.
In this Morris County Trial Court decision the issue was whether a defendant, who previously has been required under Megan’s law to register with the police where he resides, is also required to register any secondary residence pursuant to the Megan’s Law guidelines.
The second issue is whether the ‘failure to register’ in a second residence for 23 days is a minor violation not subject to triggering and new criminal charge.
This defendant was subject to Megans law classification due to a criminal conviction to a sex crime under New Jersey’s Megan’s law. After he was released from state prison he identified his residence in Hamburg New Jersey. The defendant moved six months later to Roxbury and registered with the police department. The police confirmed that his residence however after the defendant left Roxbury he moved back and forth to other locations. As a result of the defendants failure to register with his new address after he left Roxbury criminal charges were filed against him. He played guilty and was given a 60 day sense and additional one year period of probation. When the defendant was released from jail he registered at a new Roxbury Township address. He then began sleeping at his girlfriend’s house also in another town.
Pursuant to New Jersey’s Megan’s Law registration requirement, a Megan’s Law registrant is required every time he/she relocates from one address to another address that is different from a previous registration location. The law requires the “pre-registration” 10 days before relocation and that registrant must re-register with the local police every 90 days or annually based on their tier classification. Additionally, the registrant signs a verification form acknowledging his or her understanding that they must notify local police where they are residing at least 10 days before the move and they are required to re-register with the police. The form also says that any registrant will be subject to any and all laws governing sex offender registration.
In this case the defendants girlfriend communicated with Police that the defendant was staying at her home on and off as well as another location. Obviously the defendant did not pre-register with the police identifying his girlfriends address for the time. From August 22, 2011 through October 3, 2011. (approximately 5 weeks) The defendant was subsequently charged with a violation of the Megan’s Law failure to register code section under N.J.S.A. 2C see: 7-2(a)(3).
The defendant argue that the 5 week laps and failure to pre-register his girlfriend’s address was a de-minimus crime not subject to prosecution because it is too trivial. The de-minimus motions involve alleged crimes which are “too trivial to warrant prosecution” and are handled by the assignment judge in each county. The argument is that although technically there has been a crime committed, it is too trivial to warrant prosecution and the use of judicial resources. The question in this case is the risk of harm to society too great to be over looked by prosecution. The assignment judge is empowered with the ability to dismiss and indictment for such offenses. The key to this case is the eight part test outlined in the 1987 decision of State v. Zorilli, 216 N J Super. 231 (Law Div. 1987) aff’d 220 NJ Super. 517 (App. Div. 1987).
Needless to say, based on the defendants prior conviction, his signed forms acknowledging his registration obligations and requirements, the sex offenders registration intentions, and the need to protect the public at large, the assignment judge found the violation of 5 weeks of the Megan’s Law registration requirement not to be de-minimus. The court addressed the no less than five written acknowledgements the defendant signed detailing his registration responsibilities. The court also look to the plain language of the registration obligations which could not be misconstrued or found to be ambiguous.
The court also found the term “residence” defined by the legislature not being limited to a single residence but rather any location where the defendant is residing. The court looked to the difference between “residence” and “domicile”. The legislature chose the word residence because it means where a person is living in a given place for sometime as opposed to the word domicile which is a legally recognized specific location under the law. This court looked to the intention of the registration component of Megan’s law statute and other identical statutes around the country. The well principal and well founded intention of the registration component of the act “is to assure that persons convicted of sexual crimes shall be readily available for police surveillance at all times because the legislature deems them likely to commit similar offenses in the future”. The court went on to also find that any effort to swart the legislative intention concerning specific and ongoing registration requirements of sex offenders would hinder the intention of the legislature to protect the public at large.
As often is the case defendants who register at one address begin residing at another location with a girlfriend on and off, when the girlfriend relationship is intermittent and or the “sleeping over” is intermittent the courts continually require these defendants around the country to identify each residence and or temporary domicile where they are living. In other words the New Jersey legislature has made it clear that Megan’s of all registrants are required to register at each address where they reside regardless of the direction. The court found that 28 day failure to registration time Not “de minimus”. The court found the statute clear on its face, the defendant was on notice, and the risk of harm to the community significant.
Jeffrey S. Hark, Esq.