Termination of Megan’s Law Registration (Part 2)

by | Sep 23, 2021 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Justice Fernandez-Vina concluded with the following in relevant part: Registrant’s conviction and sentencing were legal determinations of his already-completed conduct. Given that a statute is retrospective if it “‘applies to events occurring before its enactment’ or ‘if it changes the legal consequences of acts completed before its effective date,'” Riley, 219 N.J. at 285 (alteration in original) (emphasis added) (quoting Miller, 482 U.S. at 430), the material date to measure the applicability of subsection (g) is that on which the registrant’s conduct occurred. Such a date represents the point in time that triggers the “legal consequences” from which a person seeks relief. Any application of subsection (g) to registrants whose relevant predicate offenses predate that subsection’s enactment would be a retroactive application barred by our decision in G.H. See 240 N.J. at 113-114.

Having found that the operative date for determining whether subsection (g) is effective as to a particular registrant is the date on which the registrant commits the offenses that require lifetime registration, we now hold that the trial court and Appellate Division erred in finding that subsection (g) should apply to registrant. Accordingly, the judgment of the Appellate Division is reversed, and the matter is remanded to the trial court for determination of registrant’s application.

The Court’s focus on the date of the offense makes more sense than focusing on the date of conviction. The date of conviction can be subject to delays and manipulation by the defendant who seeks to avoid the penalties contemplated by pending legislation. On the other hand, focusing on the date of the offense is consistent with retroactivity concerns. The Appellate Division likely recognized the trend in our caselaw towards decisions that weigh against the rights of convicted sex offenders. That could explain why in a difficult case, they sided against this defendant, i.e., they felt it was the best way to avoid being reversed. Here, a unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court held otherwise.