New Jersey Has Not Complied with Federal Sex Offender Law

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 set forth uniform standards for tracking sex offenders in all 50 states. As the July 2009 implementation deadline approached, only one state, Ohio, had complied. The U.S. attorney general signed an across-the-board extension until July 2010 for all states, including New Jersey, to bring their sex offender reporting systems into conformity with federal requirements. Failure to do so would subject the states to loss of 10 percent of their allocations under Title I, Part E, Subpart 1 of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act.

When it comes to sex offender laws, the nation looks to New Jersey for direction. That's because New Jersey's Megan's Law was the first such law in the nation, a model for other states and the federal government. But with the federal mandate looming, the underpinnings for the AWCPSA sex offender registry provisions seem to be eroding. A federally-funded study conducted by Rutgers University and the New Jersey Department of Corrections, released last February, found that Megan's Law does not effectively deter sex crimes, but does impose a tremendous cost upon taxpayers -- $5.1 million in New Jersey in 2007. Earlier studies reached the same conclusion as the 2009 Rutgers study.

As reported by, critics of the studies, such as the mother of Megan Kanka, the murdered little girl after whom Megan's law was named, point out that the studies addressed the recidivism rates of offenders. The critics contend that stopping recidivism was never the purpose of Megan's Law, which instead was designed as an information tool for parents.

When it comes to the AWCPSA-required expansion of its sex offender registry, New Jersey faces some of the same issues as other states, including the required inclusion of children convicted of sex crimes in the federal database and application of notification requirements to crimes committed before registration was mandated.

The state's public defenders expressed concern in 2007 that an expanded sex offender registry in New Jersey will impede the efforts of convicted sex offenders to maintain employment and housing and may increase the likelihood of sex offenders and their family members suffering harassment. The public defenders' association notes that the federal rules would expand the audience receiving reports of sex offenders in a jurisdiction to include housing authorities, social service agencies, background check providers and volunteer organizations where contact with children is possible. The inclusion of employer name and address in the public database can be expected to lead to job losses, the public defenders said.

The federal law requires changes to New Jersey law in other areas as well, including the classes of people who must register and the crimes for which they must register. Under New Jersey law, for example, exhibitionism and possession of kiddie porn are not covered offenses, whereas they are under the federal statute. points out that for New Jersey, as for every other state, the initial cost of AWCPSA compliance outweighs its potential loss of federal funds for noncompliance. New Jersey's first-year outlay of $14,088,206 would vastly exceed the $516,071 it stands to lose if it fails to implement AWCPSA. If you have questions about New Jersey laws regarding sex offenders, the sex offender registry or the new federal requirements, please speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area for more information.