The Effects of Megan's Law
Attorney John S. Furlong co-wrote the authoritative guide to Megan's Law, titled Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification: A "Megan's Law" Sourcebook, published by the Civic Research Institute. He has lectured widely on the subject, including frequent testimony before legislative committees, continuing legal education seminars, and through a series of articles and media interviews. We keep clients informed about legal developments and how new laws might affect their lives.
Megan's Law describes a combination of civil commitment laws, post-sentence parole laws, registration and community notification laws and municipal restriction laws. Megan's Law was originally intended to prevent convicted sex offenders from having access to children. While the effectiveness of these laws may be negligible, they do succeed at introducing a grinding burden and social stigma into the life of anyone convicted of a sex crime.
Unfortunately, many lawyers do not understand the full scope of Megan's Law, a shorthand term to cover a broad spectrum of legislation. Before evaluating any potential resolution of a sex case, your lawyer should be prepared to answer some basic questions, including:
- Will I have to register as a sex offender ("Registration and Community Notification Law"), and for how long?
- Will my personal information be posted on the Internet?
- Will I be subject to parole supervision as a sex offender ("Parole Supervision for Life"), and for how long?
- Will I be subject to civil commitment at the end of my sentence as a Sexually Violent Predator?
- Will I be allowed to live with my children while on parole supervision?
- Will I be allowed to leave the State of New Jersey while on parole?
- Will I be allowed to use the Internet or access social media sites while on parole?
- How will the federal Adam Walsh Act affect me in the future?
Different crimes carry different collateral consequences, and knowing what could happen after you plead guilty to what looks like an attractive offer is often more important than your decision to plead guilty in the first place.
Adam Walsh Act-Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act ("SORNA")
Congress adopted a federal registration and community notification scheme several years ago as part of the Adam Walsh Act. The new law gave states three years to revise and adapt their local Megan's Law programs to mesh with a federal database. After the three years were up, fewer than half a dozen states and territories had complied, partly because the federal changes required were expensive, but partly because the federal database was both permanent and inflexible.
As a result, federal authorities began relaxing their standards to induce more states to comply, and the list has grown. The changing laws have led to dislocations and misinformation about how to avoid yet another encroachment by federal authorities on what should be the responsibilities of individual states. For example, although New Jersey is not "SORNA-compliant," Pennsylvania is. For those caught between the states, whether for employment or education or family commitments, navigating the path to privacy can be daunting.
Redemption: Coping with Megan's Law
If you have been convicted of a sex offense, you may find some aspect of Megan's Law wreaking havoc on your life and the lives of your loved ones. Whether the state seeks to commit you involuntarily to a special treatment facility or simply track your every move on a GPS monitor, we can help you navigate the system, alleviate the harshest conditions, and regain some measure of dignity and freedom. We believe in redemption despite a system that seems to have discarded it. We do whatever it takes to minimize the toll Megan's Law takes on all those covered by it, including their families. Contact our offices to schedule a consultation and let us help you understand what you can do to improve your life.