J.B. pled guilty to second-degree sexual assault and was sentenced in March 1995. Following his release from custody, J.B. initially complied with the Registration Law. In 2006, however, J.B. failed to register and moved from his current address without notifying authorities. In August 2007, J.B. pled guilty to fourth-degree failure to notify law enforcement agencies of a change of address. In 2014, J.B. applied to terminate his obligation under the Registration Law. The court denied his application, concluding that the intervening conviction, though not for a sex offense, was a bar under N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(f) to termination of his Registration Law obligations. J.B. appealed.
C.M. pled guilty to third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact and was sentenced in May 1999. His judgment of conviction was amended in April 2002 to subject him to the requirements of Megan’s Law. Fifteen years after C.M.’s sex offense conviction, he applied to terminate his Registration Law obligations. The court denied the application due to an intervening conviction for violating a final restraining order under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. The court rejected C.M.’s argument that he was entitled to have his registration obligations terminated because he had not committed a sex offense within fifteen years. C.M. appealed.
In a published opinion in 2015, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial courts’ orders. The panel concluded that the Code explicitly defines the term “offense” in N.J.S.A. 2C:1-14(k). Having found no ambiguity in the statutory language, the panel concluded that “the term ‘offense’ in N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(f) means precisely what it is defined to mean-a crime, disorderly persons offense, or petty disorderly persons offense-and not the unstated limited meaning, ‘sex offense.'” The panel noted that its interpretation was consistent with the New Jersey Supreme Court’s interpretation of the statute in Doe v. Poritz, 142 N.J. 1 (1995). The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Division substantially for the reasons expressed in Judge Nugent’s opinion.
It would seem to be a particularly absurd result if registrants who repeatedly fail to abide by the Meghan’s Law registration requirements could be removed from the registry after fifteen years so long as they do not commit a new sex offense. Note that failure to abide by Meghan’s law requirements is not a sex offense. It is distinct from sex offenses like sexual assault and criminal sexual contact in that there is no tangible victim when an otherwise law-abiding person fails to alert the police of a change of address.