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May 18, 2006

Intriguing sex offender collateral consequence

With a hat tip to How Appealing, I can relay this interesting news story and this interesting state court ruling about a novel new aspect to a sex offender sentencing.  Here are highlights from the news story:

When a Sussex County teenager admitted endangering the welfare of his 6-year-old half sister, a judge sentenced him to three years probation and added an unprecedented condition: The boy must tell the parents of any girl he dates that he is a registered sex offender.  Yesterday, a state appeals court ruled that family court judges have the power to impose such conditions, even though they go beyond the warnings provided to the public under Megan's Law.

The Public Defender's Office plans to ask the state Supreme Court to review the ruling.  Spokesman Tom Rosenthal said, "We are concerned this may be adopted in other cases.  We really don't want to see that happen."

It is a case that involves conflicting state policies.  State law protects the confidentiality of juvenile delinquents in order to foster their rehabilitation.  But since the 1994 rape and murder of Megan Kanka, the state has developed an elaborate system for warning schools and neighbors about sex offenders in their midst.... Both Rosenthal and West Trenton lawyer Jack Furlong, co-author of a guidebook to Megan's Law, said it was the first time they had heard of a teenager being ordered to disclose his sex offense to a date's parents.

"As a practical proposition, this kid doesn't date for three years," said Furlong, a long-time critic of Megan's Law. "It's another example of judges being hyper-cautious whenever dealing with sex offenses for fear that something, hypothetically, could happen in the future and were it to happen the judge would be called to account," Furlong added. "That's not what judging is about."  Assistant Sussex County Prosecutor Jerome Neidhardt, who handled the appeal for the state, said, "We agree with the reasoning behind the judge's decision."

May 18, 2006 at 09:25 AM | Permalink

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Comments

If the goal is to protect his future girlfriends from sexual assault through knowledge of his past, it seems like the more narrowly tailored and appropriate order would have been to inform the girl, not the parents of the girl. What if the girl doesn't have parents? What if she is emancipated or not a minor? If hypothetical future parents learn about it and don't forbid their daughter from dating him, are they also "endangering"?

Posted by: Jessica | May 19, 2006 1:53:35 PM

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