A recent ruling from the New Jersey Supreme Court has applied the Megan’s Law exception to registration requirements for sex offenders who have committed offenses against a household member or relative, even if the offender has admitted to committing multiple sexual acts.
The exception, known as the “household/incest exception,” was introduced in an amendment to Megan’s Law in 2004. According to the state Supreme Court’s decision, the Legislature intended to allow sex offenders to keep their names off the official registry if they had a single conviction and if they had only acted against one victim living in the same household.
The Court’s unanimous decision in July has applied this amendment to a case in which the defendant had committed more than one sexual offense against the victim -- his underage half-sister.
What Happened in the Case?
In June 2014, the 19-year-old defendant, known as N.B., and was indicted by a Hudson County grand jury on one count of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, two counts of second-degree sexual assault, and one count of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child for performing sexual acts with his half-sister who was under 13 at the time. N.B. pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree sexual assault.
The trial judge and the Appellate Division ruled that N.B. had to register as a sex offender because he admitted to multiple instances of sexual contact between him and his relative. He filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court.
Household/Incest Exception Requirements
The household/incest exception for registration is detailed in N.J.S.A. 2C:7-13(d)(2). After the establishment of Megan’s Law, legislators chose to amend the statute because they had found that sex offenders whose victims were relatives or others living in the same household were less likely to commit further offenses against other people.
The amendment’s wording states that the exception to the registration requirement is for a “sole sex offense,” [which is defined as] a singled conviction, adjudication of guilt or acquittal by reason of insanity, as the case may be, for a sex offense which involved no more than one victim, no more than one occurrence or, in the case of an offense which meets the criteria of paragraph (2) of this subsection, members of no more than a single household.”
The Supreme Court’s decision in In the Matter of Registrant N.B. states that because of the section’s wording, N.B.’s situation meets the criteria to qualify for an exception. The Court also noted that the Legislature “intended the household/incest exception to apply to a registrant whose single conviction otherwise meets the requirements…and involves more than one instance of sexual contact with a single victim.”
Being charged with a sex offense can affect the rest of your life, especially if you are listed on the sex offender registry. With the household/incest exception ruling, young people who make mistakes may be allowed to be rehabilitated rather than perpetually punished. For more information regarding New Jersey’s legislation and Megan’s Law requirements, contact a New Jersey criminal defense attorney at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, today.