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Former State Prosecutor and Criminal Trial Attorney

Former State Prosecutor

Former Atlantic County Prosecutor

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Experienced for over 30 years

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New Jersey Sex Offenders Face Tougher Penalties Under Proposed Law

Recently, the New Jersey State Senate passed a new law known as the Jessica Lunsford Act. The law, if signed, will enhance the penalties for aggravated sexual assault against a child and harboring a sex offender.

The Jessica Lunsford Act, which establishes mandatory minimum sentences for certain sex crimes, is not new-New Jersey will become the 47th state in the nation to have a Jessica Lunsford Act if the bill is signed. The law was named after Jessica Lunsford, 9 year old girl who was kidnapped, raped, killed and buried in a shallow grave in Florida.

Though the crimes perpetrated against the young girl are truly heinous, laws passed in her name and the names of other victims affect all sorts of sex offenders, including those convicted of non-violent crimes and those who are unlikely to reoffend. There is growing support among civil rights advocates and other experts to reconsider draconian sex offender laws given the large range of the types of offenders.

How the Jessica Lunsford Act could affect New Jersey sex offenders

If passed, the Jessica Lunsford Act in New Jersey would create a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for those convicted of aggravated sexual assault against a child under the age of 13. Currently, those convicted of the same crime face a mandatory 10 to 20-year prison sentence. Additionally, if it becomes law, the bill would strengthen penalties for those convicted of harboring a sex offender.

Sex offender laws, however, are not new to New Jersey. New Jersey was the first state to enact Megan’s Law, which established the state’s sex offender registry and mandatory notification of sex offenders living and working in communities. Now, a national registry exists. Across the country, states have enacted legislation that restricts where convicted sex offenders can live and work.

Is a Jessica Lunsford Act necessary in New Jersey?

Some civil rights experts and researchers believe the state needs to reconsider implementing the Jessica Lunsford Act and the crusade against offenders, since the consequences of increasing the number of those serving mandatory minimum sentences is unknown and New Jersey’s laws are already so strong.

Currently, 70 percent of all inmates in New Jersey are serving mandatory minimum sentences for a variety of crimes. However, other states with mandatory minimum sentencing requirements are now revisiting these penalties, since research has found they are not effective in preventing inmates from reoffending and are costly to support.

Adding to concerns over the efficacy of mandatory minimum sentences in preventing felons from reoffending is the fact that less than 10 percent of convicted sex offenders in New Jersey have reoffended within a decade of their release. It seems that the law would attempt to prevent a problem that does not really exist.

Because of the tough stance on those face sex crimes in New Jersey, it’s more important than ever to seek advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney. The potential consequences, both direct and indirect, are hefty.

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