In the recent Monmouth County Superior Court decision State of New Jersey in the Interest of A.C., the court denied the juvenile’s motion for a jury trial. In sum, the juvenile was charged with two acts of 1st degree sexual assault and a separate 2nd degree sexual assault stemming from two separate instances relating to the same victim. While a juvenile’s right to a jury trial involves a unique Constitutional issue that is discussed in a related blog article, the case also gives rise to a discussion comparing the classification, punishment, and stigma associated with juveniles and adults under Megan’s Law.
Juvenile sexual offenders are required to register in the same manner as adults. As such, the sex offender registry in New Jersey is divided into three tiers. If the risk level is low, the offender is considered a Tier One offender, and only law enforcement agencies are notified. A Tier Two offender is considered a moderate risk, and in addition to law enforcement, the information may also be released on the internet, to schools, licensed day care centers, summer camps, and registered community organizations. Most offenders fall within Tier Two. Finally, a Tier Three offender is considered high risk, and members of the public will have access to the sexual offender information via the internet and the offender is obligated to inform neighbors of their standing.
However, unlike adults who may be incarcerated for life depending upon the seriousness of their crime, juveniles may be incarcerated for a maximum of four years (unless waived up to adult status). Further, as established in this case, juveniles, unlike adults, are not afforded the right to a jury trial. New Jersey courts and legislature have consistently held that the role of the court system / incarceration as it relates to juveniles is to provide a minimal level of punishment, while focusing on the rehabilitation process. Contrastingly, the adult criminal system’s main focus is to punish wrongful conduct, while protecting societal safety. Despite the differences between the juvenile and adult system when it comes to incarceration, if a juvenile and an adult are classified pursuant to the same Tier system, and, generally required to register on the internet, are juveniles really being treated with more leniency or are they subject to an equally burdensome level of stigmatism?
An individual may, fifteen years following conviction or release from a correctional or juvenile facility, apply to the Superior Court of the State to terminate the obligation to register. Relief is provided if an individual can prove that no subsequent offenses were committed since the initial offense and the court feels that the individual will not pose a threat to the safety of others. Because Megan’s Law was only passed in 1996, it is uncertain whether courts will be more lenient in terminating a juvenile’s obligation to register.
Timothy Farrow, of Dash Farrow, LLP, is an experienced criminal defense attorney and former Prosecutor who handles these offenses and crimes, misdemeanors, and traffic offenses of all levels. When you need experienced, focused, and responsive legal help, call Dash Farrow, LLP at 856-235-8300 or contact us online at www.dashfarrow.com. We serve individuals and businesses throughout Burlington and Camden County and all of South Jersey