Application of Megan’s Law to Juvenile Offenders in NJ
- April 25, 2012
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In the fall of 2011, two young boys in Morris County engaged in the conduct of placing their exposed buttocks on the faces of two other young boys with, what the Court found to be, the purpose to humiliate and degrade. Although the offense was certainly improper, it was likely unintended by the assaulting boys, to be of a sexual nature. Nonetheless, the boys committing the act were then subject to potential lifetime registry as Megan’s Law offenders. Juveniles are still developing socially and often do not consider the gravity of their actions toward others. The consequences of being found guilty or accepting a plea to which Megan’s Law applies are grave. In the case of a juvenile, they will be subject to registration on the Megan’s Law registry for life which will limit their opportunities relating to education, careers and even social status. When Megan’s Law is applicable there is a right to a jury trial due to the punitive nature of the law. The criminal justice system is comprised of various components ranging from rehabilitation to punishment and juvenile justice has historically leaned toward rehabilitation. Under the New Jersey juvenile justice code, a juvenile has all the same defenses and rights guaranteed to criminal defendants under the Constitutions of the United States and New Jersey except the right to indictment, the right to trial by jury and the right to bail. The restrictions placed on the rights of juvenile defendants stem from the rehabilitative nature of juvenile sentencing. When a juvenile is subject to the punitive nature of Megan’s Law and its lifetime effects, the question becomes whether the rehabilitative aspect is replaced by a punitive aspect which should entitle the juvenile to the right to a jury trial even when seeking trial as a juvenile. In the Interest of A.C., the New Jersey Appellate Division recently held that the application of Megan’s Law does not entitle a minor to a jury trial in a juvenile case. If a juvenile is charged with a crime, the disposition of the charges can change his or her future. It is critical for any juvenile charged with a criminal offense to seek an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to begin protecting their rights and their future. For more information on juvenile offenses, sex-offenses or other criminal charges in NJ, visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com.