In 1994, New Jersey passed Megan’s Law. The law provides additional consequences for those convicted of sex crimes, including a requirement to register as a sex offender. Aggravated sexual assault and criminal sexual contact are among the crimes that could require you to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law.
In New Jersey, Megan’s Law offenders are placed into tiers depending on the severity of their crime. What do these tiers mean for your case? If you feel you’ve been placed in the wrong classification, can you challenge it? Below is a brief explanation of the tier system under Megan’s Law. To discuss specific questions that you may have about your case, contact New Jersey sex crime defense attorney Jason A. Volet. He can fully explain the law to you and how it applies to your circumstances.
What Are Tiers Under Megan’s Law?
Under Megan’s Law, convicted sex offenders are placed into different tiers based on their risk of recidivism, or the possibility that they will commit sex crimes again. The law provides three tiers:
- Tier 1 – This tier is for low-risk offenders. In other words, the chance of committing another sex offense is low. Getting placed into this tier results in fairly minimal consequences. If you are considered a Tier 1 offender, only law enforcement agencies will be notified of your sex offender status.
- Tier 2 – You are placed in this tier if it is determined that you present only a moderate risk of committing another sex crime. Local law enforcement will be notified of your sex offender status as will any facility that cares for children such as schools and children’s camps. If you are placed into Tier 2, you may also have to register on the state’s sex offender registry.
- Tier 3 – This is the most severe classification. It is reserved for those considered to be at a high risk for committing another sex crime. Law enforcement and facilities that care for children will be notified of your sex offender status. You will also have to register on New Jersey’s sex offender registry.
These classifications can have a significant impact on your life after you have served your sentence. It will likely affect your ability to gain meaningful employment, and it could change the way you are perceived by your community. Mr. Volet, however, will work hard to seek getting you placed in the lowest classification possible.
Filing a Challenge Against Tier Classification
After you are placed into a tier, you will receive a letter in the mail notifying you of the decision. This letter will outline your right to challenge the classification. In most instances, you will have 14 days to notify a Superior Court Judge, along with the prosecution, that you are going to challenge it. If you challenge your tier classification, the case will be heard in the county where the offense occurred by a Superior Court judge who is assigned to review classification challenges.
These hearings are similar to other judicial proceedings in New Jersey. The prosecution will begin by producing a discovery packet. This will include the judgement of conviction, the indictment or accusation of the offense, portions of your Pre-Sentence Report and a completed registrant risk assessment scale (RRAS). Your attorney will also likely submit a packet of documents and arguments. These documents will outline your objection to the tier classification.
The judge will not hear arguments at this initial hearing. Instead, the judge will schedule another hearing. At the second hearing, your attorney can present arguments challenging the tier classification. Likewise, the prosecution will present arguments for why they placed you into a specific tier. The judge will then make a final decision on your tier classification.
What Is the Registrant Risk Assessment Scale?
Prosecutors do not simply consider your crime and determine which tier you should be placed into under Megan’s Law. Instead, prosecutors are required to score you and your offense while using the Registrant Risk Assessment Scale (RRAS). There score is based on 13 categories:
- Whether force was used to commit the offense
- Amount of contact with the victim
- Age of the victim
- Whether the victim was someone in your household, an acquaintance or a stranger
- Number of offenses or number of victims
- How long you engaged in the behavior
- Amount of time that has passed since your last offense
- History of your behavior, including withdrawing from social situations
- Your response to any court-ordered or voluntary treatment
- History of substance abuse
- Therapeutic support
- Residential support
- Stability of your employment or educational situation.
The prosecution will assign your case a score in each category and then add those scores together to determine your tier. If you receive a score of 0 to 36, you are considered to be low risk and will likely be placed into Tier 1. If you score between 36 and 73, you are considered a moderate risk and will likely be placed into Tier 2. If you receive a score of 74 or higher, you are deemed high risk and will likely be placed into Tier 3.
A criminal defense attorney like Jason A. Volet who is familiar with Megan’s Law can estimate how you will score on the RRAS. He can use this information to determine if the prosecution has classified you appropriately. If it appears that you were placed into the wrong tier, he will inform you and begin the process of challenging your classification.
Get Help from an Experienced New Jersey Sex Crimes Defense Attorney
After you have been convicted of a sex crime and possibly even served time for it, you will want to put the case behind you as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, that won’t be easy. The prosecution must still determine your classification under Megan’s Law, and you may have to challenge it. If you have been charged with a sex crime, contact The Law Office of Jason A. Volet through our offices in Freehold and Neptune. We will fight to protect your rights and pursue the best possible outcome for you.
Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a criminal trial attorney, Jason A. Volet focuses his practice exclusively on criminal and municipal defense in New Jersey and New York. He earned his B.A. in political science from Rutgers College in 1995 and his J.D. from the Hofstra University School of Law in 1998. Mr. Volet began his career in the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, where he gained extensive experience prosecuting both juvenile and adult offenders. Now, as a criminal defense attorney, he uses that experience to fight for the rights of individuals who have been charged with a crime.