Constitutionality of Lifetime Parole Supervision for Juvenile Sex Offenders (Part 3)

by | Aug 1, 2018 | Blog, Criminal Law, Juvenile Delinquency, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Juvenile DelinquencyJustice Albin continued: Even a lifetime presumption with a twenty-five-year look-back period has been found violative of some states’ constitutions. New Jersey’s lifetime presumption of dangerousness that attaches to juvenile sex offenders pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:7-29(g) is more extreme than the registration and notification schemes, as applied to juveniles, struck down by the Ohio and Pennsylvania Supreme Courts. See C.P., 967 N.E.2d at 732, 737; J.B., 107 A.3d at 2, 17. The Ohio and Pennsylvania schemes, which allowed juvenile sex offenders to seek the lifting of registration and notification requirements after the passage of twenty-five years, were deemed constitutionally offensive because the classifications were not based on ongoing individual risk assessments. C.P., 967 N.E.2d at 741-42; J.B., 107 A.3d at 17. N.J.S.A. 2C:7-29(g) is even out of step with federal SORNA, which has no permanent lifetime registration provision for juveniles. A juvenile Tier III offender under the federal enactment is subject to a presumptive lifetime registration but, after twenty-five years, is eligible to have his registration requirements terminated. 34 U.S.C. § 20915(a)(3) to (b).

Subsection (g) of N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2, moreover, cannot be viewed in isolation from other provisions of the statute. Subsection (f) imposes presumptive lifetime registration and notification requirements for sex offenses covered by subsection (g) but allows for a juvenile sex offender to be relieved of those requirements fifteen years after his juvenile adjudication or release from a correctional facility, provided he has been offense-free and “is not likely to pose a threat to the safety of others.” Thus, under subsection (f), those juvenile sex offenders who have reoffended or pose a continuing threat after fifteen years will not be relieved of their registration and notification requirements.

The Court uses the term “offense-free” here. This implies that a single disorderly persons or perhaps even an ordinance conviction after being placed on the registry means that the offender will be stuck on the registry forever. That view is at odds with the plain language of the statute that reads “A person sentenced to a term of parole supervision for life may petition the Superior Court for release from that parole supervision. The judge may grant a petition for release from a special sentence of parole supervision for life only upon proof by clear and convincing evidence that the person has not committed a crime for 15 years since the last conviction or release from incarceration, whichever is later, and that the person is not likely to pose a threat to the safety of others if released from parole supervision.” The plain language suggests that only crimes (felonies) will create a bar to de-registration. Moreover, the plain language suggests that a single crime would merely re-start the 15- year clock, as opposed to operating a s a permanent bar to de-registration.