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What Happens If I Don’t Register As A Sex Offender?

February 14, 2023 | Posted In Criminal Law

Failing to register as a sex offender in New Jersey can result in serious consequences. Although it can feel personally embarrassing or unnecessary, there is no excuse for not registering as a sex offender as required by law. Harsh sanctions can be imposed on those who refuse to follow the state’s strict requirements. This results in significantly worse legal trouble, including being charged with a third-degree crime for failing to register as a sex offender, as required by Megan’s Law). A conviction could result in a sentence of up to five years in state prison.

Having spent decades representing people involved in sex crime cases, each New Jersey criminal defense attorney at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman knows the potential consequences of not registering as a sex offender. We work to obtain the best and fairest outcomes for our clients both before and after their criminal court proceedings. We aim to provide our clients with knowledge about what it means to register as a sex offender and share necessary information about what will happen if they fail to register.

Failure to Register: Charges and Sentences

If charged with failure to register, you could find yourself facing a surprisingly long prison sentence. Failure to register is a third-degree offense. While third-degree offenses do not always result in sentences of jail or prison time, sex offenders are significantly more likely to receive such time. This is because sex offenders already have a pre-existing, serious criminal record, which will result in much more severe consequences for any subsequent crimes.

A conviction for failure to register can lead to up to five years of incarceration in state prison. If you find yourself facing a failure to register a charge, it is essential to work with a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer who will advocate for you. Your freedom is at risk.

A conviction for failure to register or a conviction for any crime or criminal offense will make it impossible to ever get off of Megan’s Law Supervision!

Along with up to five years of prison time and permanent Megan’s Law Registration, a conviction for failing to register as a sex offender in New Jersey can also result in a fine of up to $15,000. Additionally, since failure to register is classified as an indictable offense under New Jersey law, a conviction means that you may lose your right to own or possess a firearm. 

A conviction for failure to register as a sex offender will also result in the loss of your right to vote in elections and your right to serve on a jury.

Registration Requirements

There are certain steps you must take in order to properly register as a sex offender under New Jersey law. Registration must take place at your local police station (a police station located in the town or city you live in). Even if you are homeless or don’t have a permanent address, you must register at your local police station.

At the police station, you must provide them with your personal and identifying information, your residential address, and information about the sex offense you committed. This information will then be placed on the town or city’s public sex offender registry. 

If you plan to relocate, you must visit your local police station prior to your relocation and inform them of your relocation. You must also provide your new address to them. This is required even if you are moving out of the state.

The amount of time you have to register depends on your individual circumstances. Under New Jersey law, the deadlines for sex offender registration are as follows:

  • Probation, Parole, Furlough, or Work Release – If you are placed on probation, parole, furlough, or work release, you must register as a sex offender when your supervision begins.
  • Incarceration – If you are incarcerated, you must register with the prison system prior to your release and with the local police in the municipality where you will reside within 48 hours of your release.
  • Relocation – If you are relocating to New Jersey, you must register with the local police in the municipality where you will reside within 10 days of arriving in the state. This requirement applies if you are relocating permanently, if you are relocating for college, or if you are relocating to work in New Jersey for either 14 consecutive days or 30 days in a calendar year.

In addition to these first-time registration requirements, you are also obligated to re-register as a sex offender in New Jersey whenever you have a change of address. Under Section 2C:7-2d of the New Jersey Revised Statutes, you must report your new address within 10 days of moving. If you do not report your new address as required by law, you can face the same penalties as someone who fails to register at all.

How do you know if you need to register as a sex offender in New Jersey? This should be made clear at the time of your sentencing (though understanding your obligations can be challenging). Generally speaking, sex offender registration is required following a conviction for any of the following offenses:

  • Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault
  • Endangering the Welfare of a Child (Involving Various Sex-Related and Child Pornography Offenses)
  • Kidnapping (Under Section 2C:13-1c(2) of the New Jersey Revised Statutes)
  • Luring a child
  • Sexual Assault
  • Criminal Sexual Contact with a Minor
  • Criminal Restraint or False Imprisonment of a Minor
  • Promoting the Prostitution of a Minor
  • Production, Manufacturing or Distributing Child Pornography
  • Attempting to Commit Any of the Crimes Listed Above

The Registry Tier System 

All persons required to register as sex offenders will be categorized into one of three tiers by a state prosecutor. The more severe the prosecutor considers your sex offense to be, the higher your tier will be. This is significant because your tier classification determines which and how many groups of people will be notified of your status as a sex offender. 

Relief from Sex Offender Registration Requirements

During the course of a sex offender’s life, their registration requirements can change. By default, the sex offender registration requirement will be active for the offender’s entire life. However, under certain circumstances, a sex offender may be able to obtain relief from this requirement. 

In order to be relieved of the sex offender registration requirement, a sex offender must meet certain conditions over a period of time. These conditions are:

  • Only one sex offense was committed by the offender
  • No sex offense was committed for the past 15 years
  • Demonstrate that the offender is no longer a risk to the public
  • Can’t have any convictions for a crime or criminal offense (disorderly or petty disorderly offense) after being convicted of a Megan’s Law crime.

Removal of sex offender registration requirements can only occur once in one’s entire life. If a sex offender is relieved of registration requirements but then commits another sex offense, they or will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of their life – no exceptions.

Exceptions: Know Your Rights

Another benefit of consulting with a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer is that your case can be reviewed to see if it falls within a category of sex crimes that is an exception to the sex offender registration requirement. If a sex offender only has one sex offense conviction and acts against a victim living in their household, they are subject to an exception from the sex offender registration requirement (known as the "household/incest exception").

New Jersey also provides an exception from the sex offender registration requirement for most juvenile sex offenders. There are different rules and requirements for registering as a sex offender when the offender is a juvenile. However, this is not a universally granted exception – all juvenile offenders should consult with a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer to be sure they fall within this exception, as the consequences for failure to register are severe.

Parole and Sex Offender Registries

Complying with sex offender registration requirements is especially important for people on parole. This is because, for parolees, compliance with sex offender registration requirements is part of their terms of parole. 

This means that when a person on parole violates their sex offender registration requirements, they do more than the third-degree crime of failure to register – they are in violation of the terms of their parole. Sex offenders on parole who fail to register will face double consequences: they will receive consequences for violating sex offender registration requirements (a third-degree crime) as well as separate consequences for violating the terms of their parole at the same time. This can result in very severe and complex consequences, including returning to prison.

Defending Yourself When Charged with Failure to Register as a Sex Offender in New Jersey

If you are being charged with failing to register as a sex offender, it is important to defend yourself by all means available. As discussed above, failure to register is a serious criminal offense, and a conviction could result in long-term imprisonment and other penalties.

How can you defend against allegations of failure to register? Depending on the circumstances of your case, examples of defenses your lawyer may be able to argue on your behalf include the following:

An Exception Applies

As discussed above, there are various exceptions to New Jersey’s sex offender registration law. If an exception applies in your case, proving this should be enough to protect you against a wrongful conviction.

You Didn’t Fail To Register

Sometimes, the government gets it wrong. If you are being accused of failing to register despite the fact that you registered on time, your lawyer can use the available documentation to show that you have complied with the law.

Your Failure to Register was Accidental

Let’s say you didn’t realize you had to register. Or, maybe you thought you had more time than you did. Unfortunately, these facts won’t necessarily protect you from a conviction entirely. But, if you made an honest mistake, your lawyer may be able to use this to minimize the consequences of your charge.

Prosecutors Can’t Prove Their Case

Finally, as in all criminal cases, the prosecution has the burden of proving your failure to register beyond a reasonable doubt. If prosecutors cannot prove that you are guilty (for example, if they cannot prove when your deadline to register expired), then New Jersey’s presumption of innocence entitles you to walk free. 

FAQs: Understanding Sex Offender Registration and Megan’s Law in New Jersey

What is Megan’s Law in New Jersey?

Megan’s Law is New Jersey’s sex offender registration statute. If you get convicted of a sex crime in New Jersey, you will most likely be required to register under Megan’s Law. Failure to register carries steep penalties (including fines and jail time), so it is important to make sure you know how to comply with the law’s requirements once you’ve been convicted.

How Do You Get Off of Megan’s Law Registration?

In New Jersey, you may be eligible to get off of Megan’s Law Registration after 15 years if you are not convicted of any other crimes or ciminal offenses during this time. Section 2C:7-2f of the New Jersey Revised Statutes states: “[A] person required to register under this act may make application to the Superior Court . . . terminate the obligation upon proof that the person has not committed an offense within 15 years following conviction or release from a correctional facility for any term of imprisonment imposed, whichever is later, and is not likely to pose a threat to the safety of others.” However, this is not an option if you have a prior sex offense on your criminal record.

Do I Have to Register as a Sex Offender in New Jersey if I am Only Moving There Temporarily?

Yes, if you are moving to New Jersey temporarily to work or attend school, you must still comply with the state’s sex offender registration requirements. If you don’t, you can be convicted of an indictable offense (comparable to a felony in other states), and you can be sentenced to up to five years in state prison. 

Do It Right -- Hire a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney 

Failing to register as a sex offender is a serious crime, and you may find yourself facing serious prison time as a result. There is no room for error or mistakes in registering as a sex offender. This is why it is essential to contact a New Jersey criminal defense attorney about any hesitations or concerns you have about registering as a sex offender. 

Over 20 attorneys at HCK have extensive experience in defending sex crime cases as they were former assistant prosecutors and/or police officers for a combined total of over 600 years of law enforcement experience. You can find out more about them on our site, and you can call Managing Partner Ron Helmer on his cell phone at 609 685-0665.

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