Constitutionality of Lifetime Parole Supervision for Juvenile Sex Offenders (Part 1)

by | Jul 28, 2018 | Blog, Criminal Law, Juvenile Delinquency, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Juvenile DelinquencyOn April 24, 2018, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided the Bergen County case of State in the Interest of C.K. The principle issue was whether the Megan’s Law lifetime parole supervision requirements are unconstitutional as applied to juvenile sex offenders. In writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Albin held in relevant part:

We now determine whether the categorical lifetime registration and notification requirements imposed on juvenile offenders by N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(G) passes muster under the substantive due-process guarantee of our State Constitution. Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution provides: All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.

That paragraph “sets forth the first principles of our governmental charter — that every person possesses the ‘unalienable rights’ to enjoy life, liberty, and property, and to pursue happiness.” Those basic rights cannot be abridged by arbitrary government action. Although our State Constitution nowhere expressly states that every person shall be entitled to substantive due process of law, the expansive language of Article I, Paragraph 1 embraces that fundamental guarantee. The guarantee of substantive due process requires that a statute reasonably relate to a legitimate legislative purpose and not impose arbitrary or discriminatory burdens on a class of individuals. Although all laws are presumed to be constitutional, no law can survive scrutiny under Article I, Paragraph 1 unless it has a rational basis in furthering some legitimate state interest. Therefore, a statute that bears no rational relationship to a legitimate government goal and that arbitrarily deprives a person of a liberty interest or the right to pursue happiness is unconstitutional.

The prosecution would likely argue that the focus of Article 1, paragraph 1 of our state constitution should be the life, liberty, and property of our law-abiding citizenry. Thus, the parole supervision requirements at issue are constitutional because they protect law-abiding citizens from sex offenders.