|Gov. Chris Christie|
By Keith Brown
Penalties under Megan’s Law got a little stiffer under new law signed Tuesday by Gov. Chris Christie that makes sex offenders pay for part of their monitoring costs.
Under the new law, sponsored by Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo and Daniel R. Benson, both D-Mercer/Middlesex, newly convicted sex offenders will have to pay a $30 monthly fee – money that would go into a state fund to pay for offenders’ supervision. Some of the money also would pay for authorities to track offenders’ online activity.
The law also upgrades penalties for sexual assault if the victim is physically or mentally incapacitated. The crime is now a second degree offense, up from the former third degree offense. It carries a sentence of 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
It also increases the penalty for failure to register a new address with authorities from a fourth-degree to a third-degree crime and clarifies that a juvenile caught "sexting" with a cell phone would not have to register as a sex offender.
Under the new law low-level offenders whose conduct has been deemed "repetitive" and "compulsive" can be seen in publicly accessible online databases. Formerly, only mid-level offenders were included.
The law provides money from the supervision fund to upgrade authorities’ computer equipment to monitor sex offenders’ online moves, and it prohibits parole officers from handling more than 40 sex offender cases.
“This tweaks Megan’s Law to help prevent innocent children from becoming victims,” DeAngelo said in a release. “Measures like ensuring that parole officers are not overwhelmed by large case loads and creating penalties that can help fund initiatives to aid in the surveillance of these offenders will all help ensure that these perpetrators do not become repeat offenders at the expense of our children.”