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Deep Dive into Nicole’s Law & Sex Offender Registration in New Jersey

Published: May 30, 2023

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What is Nicole’s Law in NJ?

Understanding Nicole's Law in New JerseyNicole’s law protects victims from those alleged or proven to have committed sexual crimes against them. A victim may obtain an order prohibiting an individual accused or convicted of certain sex-related crimes from contacting them without establishing an intimate relationship with the abuser, as is required for a domestic violence restraining order.  The law redresses 15-year-old Nicole Norberto’s inability to obtain a restraining order against an acquaintance who raped her because she had not dated her attacker. Now, a court may issue protection by order of the court or restraining order, if necessary, at various stages of the criminal proceedings, from detention to sentencing.

According to New Jersey’s Administrative Office of the Courts, Directive #01-10, a court may set conditions on bail, ordering the accused not to contact the victim. A no-contact order may also issue after conviction as a condition in sentencing a guilty defendant. Finally, a court may order a defendant to stay away from a victim through a restraining order. Contact includes coming near a victim’s home, employment, business, or school and extends to the victim’s relatives.

What does Sex Offender Registration have to do with Nicole’s Law Cases?

The sex-related crimes that trigger this law are listed in N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2, otherwise known as Megan’s Law. N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2 requires those convicted of specific sex offenses to register with the state as sex offenders. Those offenses include committing or attempting to commit aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal restraint, endangering the welfare of a child, luring, enticing, false imprisonment, or kidnapping.

Many defendants subject to Nicole’s Law are also required to register under Megan’s Law for the sex offenses that qualify for Nicole’s Law protection. A convicted sex offender must register with the New Jersey Sex Offender Internet Registry, providing their name, address, photo, vehicle identification information, and a brief description of the offense or offenses. Law enforcement maintains the Registry and notifies the public about sex offenders residing nearby after assessing those offenders as having a moderate or severe risk of reoffending. Between the two laws, a convicted sex offender may be policed by the community and the victims when under a no-contact order. Violations of stay-away orders and Megan’s law registration are indictable crimes.

What are the Notification Procedures in Sex Offense Cases Involving Nicole’s Law?

Directive #01-10 outlines the notification process and timing to the involved or potentially involved entities, such as the family and criminal court, or law enforcement, to avoid conflicting orders. Since sex offenses may arise in many contexts and across the criminal, family, and juvenile court systems, Directive #01-10 is essential to safeguard against conflicting orders. For example, a parent charged with a sex offense may get one order forbidding the parent to contact the victim-child but another order in a divorce proceeding granting visitation. When a Nicole’s Law order comes from the superior court criminal division or the municipal court, the Criminal Division Manager or Municipal Court Administrator notifies the police department nearest the victim’s and defendant’s residences. They also notify the county prosecutor, victim, defendant, Family Division Manager’s Office (for child victims), and the Criminal Division Manager’s office (for municipal court cases).

In that way, criminal divisions and municipal court judges can search for conflicting family court orders. When they find conflicting rulings, the Criminal Division or Municipal Court judge issuing a Nicole’s Law order can consult one another and reconcile any order from the Family Part. Any modified order is entered into the record and sent to the same parties or entities that receive a Nicole’s Law order. Without an agreement to reconcile the different orders, the Assignment Judge holds a hearing to establish an order. The court notifies all interested parties of the hearing and sends them the final order.

How do Violations of Orders Differ in these Cases?

Though a victim may seek a civil protective order under the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Protection Act (SASPA) against anyone who actually or attempted to commit a non-consensual sexual contact, penetration, or lewdness without filing criminal charges, the violation of a SASPA protective order is criminal. Sexual assault protective orders are entered into law enforcement databases to help law enforcement on protective order violation calls. However, the consequences of violating a protective order issued by a Family Part judge are different than violating an order issued in a criminal proceeding for a sex crime.

Violating a civil protective order amounts to criminal contempt that results in the automatic arrest of the violator, even for a false claim of a sexual assault protective order violation. However, when a court finds a violation occurred, they can sentence a violator to a maximum of six months in jail and $1,000.00 in fines for a first violation. A second violation results in a minimum 30-day jail sentence. This becomes a fourth degree crime when the violation itself would otherwise be considered an indictable or disorderly persons offense. However, a no-contact order issued under Nicole’s Law as a sentence condition may lead to more severe penalties, such as additional prison time or fines or revocation of probation, among other penalties.

What if a Person Fails to Register in a Sex Offense Case?

Failing to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law is a third degree crime punishable by three to five years in prison and a potential $15,000.00 fine. So, a convicted sex offender who fails to register after completing their sentence, and being sentenced to probation or other punishment terms, is guilty of a third degree crime. However, an offender who fails to update their registration with a change of address is also guilty of a third degree crime. Sex offenders must inform law enforcement within ten days of a move of their new address any time they move, or they violate the sex offender registration law in N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2.

How do Nicole’s Law Cases Result in Additional Penalties?

Considering the sex offender registration requirements and Nicole Law protective orders, a convicted sex offender may face a lengthy jail or prison term for multiple violations, even when those violations are honest mistakes or retaliatory actions by a victim. For example, a victim may call the police alleging a protective order violation after the victim caused the contact, thus, violating the order. The police then arrest the defendant. Upon arrest, the police may discover the defendant failed to register their new address with the sex offender registry, which may have been an oversight or caused by being detained for violating the protective order. In other words, a convicted sex offender faces many dangers that result in a return to prison or a first-time prison sentence.

Facing a Nicole’s Law Case in New Jersey?

When facing a protective order for a sex crime, a registration violation, or both, it is essential to speak with a defense attorney right away. Since prosecutors typically take a hard stance against registration and sexual offense protective order violations, in addition to sexual offenses themselves, you need a lawyer on your side who knows how to defend these cases and can paint the picture of you as a human being to the prosecutor and the judge.

While missing registration deadlines due to an oversight is not a legal excuse, it may soften a prosecutor’s stance against a defendant. People get sick, have car accidents, lose a loved one or experience other hardships and tragedies that take precedence in their minds over other details. In addition, vengeful victims who play the system may need exposure to a prosecutor with proof to reconsider their case.

Talk to a New Jersey Nicole’s Law Attorney Today

If you are facing a Nicole’s Law order, a violation of a Nicole’s Law order, or a Megan’s law violation, contact our distinguished team of attorneys for immediate assistance. We can provide you with a confidential and no-cost consultation 24/7 by contacting us online or calling (908)-336-5008.

Filed under: Sex Crimes, Sexual Assault Restraining Orders

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