New Jersey issues new rules for Megan’s Law
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – Acting on orders from a federal judge, the state attorney general Thursday issued new guidelines to make sure information about sex offenders isn’t disseminated as widely under the so-called Megan’s Law.
The new regulations require anyone notified that a sex offender lives near their home or school to sign papers saying they will not disseminate the information. The judge who ordered changes in the law said sex offenders’ privacy rights were being violated under the old system.
Megan’s Law is named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl who was raped and murdered in 1994 by a convicted sex offender who lived across the street from her home. Every other state has some type of sexual offender law modeled after Megan’s Law, but many have come under fire.
This month, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reinstate Pennsylvania’s sexual-predator law, which was thrown out by that state’s highest court on the ground that it violated defendants’ rights.
Megan’s Law categorizes convicted sex offenders in three levels, based on the perceived danger they present. For those offenders deemed most dangerous, the law allows prosecutors to disclose an offender’s name, age and address, as well as his job and its location.
But the law says only people approved by a judge can see that information. Under the new rules, in order to get that information, people must sign a statement that says the material is confidential and that they ”will submit to the jurisdiction of the court.”
If they don’t sign, they don’t get all the details, said Roger Shatzkin, a spokesman for Attorney General John J. Farmer, Jr. One item left out is the sex offender’s address, he said.
Acting on a class-action lawsuit brought by the state Public Defender’s Office, U.S. District Judge Joseph Irenas in December said New Jersey failed to implement consistent standards on how notifications are conducted in all 21 counties.
The lawsuit cited 45 instances in which rules on privacy were violated. These cases include a newspaper that published the information and a school principal who received a sex-offender warning at home and brought it to work and photocopied it for everyone.