In the case of State of New Jersey in the Interest of B.P.C., the New Jersey Appellate Division recently upheld the adjudication of delinquency of two fourteen (14) year-old juveniles for acts of criminal sexual contact and most notably, the accompanying sentence of registration as a sex offender pursuant to Megan’s Law. In sum, the facts alleged consisted of the juveniles pressing their bare buttocks against the face of a twelve (12) year old during the course of severe bullying. That act and the others accompanying it were no question bullying of a high level that called for serious punishment, but was it a sex offense qualifying it for Megan’s Law?
Although, the legal answer reached by the Appellate Division might be yes, the practical answer is a pretty easy no. So the next question is, how can this be fixed. A close look at the law defining criminal sexual contact is a good start. N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3 defines it as intentional touching of the victim’s intimate parts for the purpose of degrading or humiliating the victim or sexually arousing or sexually gratifying the actor. The buttocks falls under the definition of intimate parts, so the touching meets the charge, and the Court found that the purpose was clearly to to degrade or humiliate the victim. That is why I have to agree with the Court that the charge fits the act.
However, the Court did not rightfully find that these juveniles had any intent of sexual arousal or gratification. Despite that, any act of criminal sexual contact committed upon a minor requires Megan’s Law registration, and because these juveniles are over 14, they will have to register for the rest of their lives. So my question is, should the Megan’s Law requirement only apply to cases where the intent was sexual arousal or gratification perhaps? Surely, no person should be subjected to unwanted contact with his or her intimate parts by any person, but as in this case, there still could be other punishment. But registering as a sex offender under Megan’s Law carries a label for life that should be limited to only those truly deserving it. Further, if it is applied to juveniles such as this, in addition to the impact upon their lives, it also might water down the effect of Megan’s Law by causing the public to question whether those registered are all truly “sex offenders”.
Timothy Farrow, of Dash Farrow, LLP, is an experienced criminal defense attorney and former Prosecutor who handles these offense and crimes, misdemeanors, and traffic offense of all levels. When you need experienced, focused, and responsive legal help, call Dash Farrow, LLP at 856-235-8300 or contact us online. We serve individuals and businesses throughout Burlington and Camden County and all of South Jersey.