Sex Offender Internet Registry (Part 3)

by | Jun 6, 2022 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Appellate panel concluded with the following in relevant part: In addition, the facts on which the trial court relied to exclude B.B.’s personal identifiers from the Internet Registry are inapposite. The court noted that B.B. “has apparently gone on with his life” and “paid the price for his offenses in the State of Pennsylvania.” These facts would apply to every registrant who has completed his sentence and relocated to New Jersey and are not relevant to the likelihood of re-offense.

The court also found that B.B. is married and employed. The record contains no evidence suggesting that marriage and employment are indicative of a low recidivism rate for sex offenders. The court also found that B.B. has not had “continuing involvement with law enforcement with respect to these types of cases.” While this is true, the court failed to consider that B.B. was convicted of five non-sexual criminal offenses between 2007 and 2016, and was incarcerated for a significant period of time. While it appears that B.B. ceased committing sexual offenses prior to his prosecution, he has not had a long record of refraining from criminal sexual activity while in the community. Moreover, the significance of B.B.’s criminal record to his likelihood to commit a sexual offense could be explained only through expert testimony based on the unique aspects of his offenses or character that make him less likely to re-offend than the general sex offender.

Finally, the court noted that having one’s personal identifiers on the Internet Registry is “a bell you can’t un-ring.” This is true in every instance in which N.J.S.A. 2C:7-13(c) applies and cannot warrant departure from the unequivocal text of the statute.

The evidence on which the trial court relied is not the type of expert opinion or other evidence specific to the unique aspects of B.B.’s offenses or character relevant to his risk of re-offense that the Court in In re G.B. held may warrant departure from a statutory notice provision. Nor does the record support a conclusion that B.B. presents an unusual, “outside the heartland,” case. Yet, based on the same record, it determined that departure from the unequivocal text of N.J.S.A. 2C:7-13(c) was warranted. The trial court’s exclusion of B.B.’s personal identifiers from the Internet Registry was a mistaken exercise of its discretion.

We cannot, therefore, affirm the trial court’s decision excluding B.B.’s personal identifiers from the Internet Registry. However, in light of the difficulty in retracting information that has been published on the Internet we will delay the effective date of our decision to allow B.B., if he so chooses, to seek relief in the Supreme Court without having been subject to disclosure on the Internet Registry.

The last sentence of the opinion makes it a virtual guarantee that the defendant will appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court. While the New Jersey Supreme Court refuses to hear the vast majority of petitions, it does grant the petitioner relief in most cases that it does hear.