New Jersey Court Discusses Sex Offender Tier Designations

People that are convicted of sex crimes are typically required to register as sex offenders. In New Jersey, there are multiple tiers sex offenders can be categorized under, based on their perceived risk of re-offense, and the obligations imposed on a sex-offenders varies based on tier. The duty of proving a sex offender’s tier designation falls on the State, not the offender, as discussed in a recent case in which the offender objected to his classification as a Tier II offender. If you were charged with or convicted of a sex crime, it is in your best interest to speak to a knowledgeable New Jersey criminal defense attorney to discuss your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant, who lived in Pennsylvania, was charged with and convicted of numerous sexual assault charges involving acts perpetrated on his minor son and daughter. He pleaded guilty to one charge and was deemed a sexually violent predator and a pedophile and sentenced to a term of imprisonment followed by parole. The defendant then relocated to New Jersey, and following a hearing he was classified as a Tier II sex offender, which required him to notify law enforcement agencies and community organizations of his status. The defendant appealed his designation, arguing that he should have been classified as a Tier I offender. Upon review, the appellate court affirmed his designation.

The Burden of Establishing the Appropriate Sex Offender Tier

In New Jersey, registered sex-offenders are categorized into three tiers based on the risk of re-offense: Tier I, which is low risk, Tier II, which is a moderate risk, and Tier III, which is a high risk. Tier classification is determined on a case by case basis, based in part on the offender’s risk assessment scale score, which is determined by the seriousness of the offense, the offender’s history and characteristics, and what community support is available. In assessing what designation is appropriate, a court must balance the offender’s right to privacy and the community’s interest in notification and safety. While an offender cannot dispute the risk assessment score he or she is assigned, he or she can dispute the proposed Tier designation.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred by shifting the burden of proof from the State to the defendant and that the trial court abused its discretion by designating the defendant as a Tier II offender. The appellate court agreed, finding that the State bore the burden of establishing by clear and convicting evidence that a proposed tier designation is warranted. The appellate court found, however, that although the trial court inappropriately placed the burden of establishing that the Tier designation was not appropriate on the defendant, the error was harmless. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the designation.

Speak to a Trusted Criminal Defense Attorney

A sex offender registration can permanently alter your reputation and your rights, and if you are charged with a sex crime, it is critical to speak to an attorney regarding your available defenses. The trusted New Jersey criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are adept at defending people charged with sex crimes, and we will work tirelessly to help you seek just results. You can contact us through our form online or at 877-450-8301 to set up a conference.

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