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Courtroom mistake relieves ex-cop of sex offender supervision

Those in New Jersey who have been convicted of a sex crime are sometimes required to undergo a lifetime of community supervision under the state's Megan's Law. A recent ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court has changed that requirement for one state resident, however, removing the requirement even after his guilty plea to a sexual assault charge.

The convicted assailant pled guilty in 2000 to a sexual assault he was accused of carrying out four years prior against a neighbor. As a result of his plea, he was given three years of probation. In 2007, the state parole board decided to commit him to lifetime community supervision based on the state's Megan's Law. Despite the fact that the supervision was not a part of his conviction, a trial judge agreed to the additional punishment, a decision that was reversed on appeal.

The case was taken up by the state's highest court, which decided in the man's favor in a 4-2 decision. The court found that the imposition of the additional punishment would violate the double jeopardy clause. He still has to register with local authorities when he changes addresses or employment. What he won't have to do, however, is get permission from a parole officer to do so prior to moving or getting a new job. The court determined that the lack of supervision was a mistake in the original sentencing, but that the man should not be penalized after the fact for the court's mistake.

Merely being charged with a sex crime in the state of New Jersey is a serious issue that requires a strong legal defense from the moment the charge is made. The result of a conviction makes this even more important, as strict lifelong penalties can result. Residents of the state should be aware that they have the right to engage in a strong defense, whether it's fighting against an original charge or attending a Megan's Law hearing that may determine the level of registration in a sexual offender's database that is required if convicted.

Source: Associated Press, "Ex-NYC cop escapes supervision as a sex offender," Oct.22, 2012

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