TRENTON – The State Senate passed legislation Thursday, Oct. 4 cosponsored and strongly supported by 9th District Sen. Christopher J. Connors and Assembly members Brian E. Rumpf and DiAnne C. Gove that would enact the Jessica Lunsford Act (S380, S642) in New Jersey.
The legislation is named for Jessica Lunsford, the Florida girl who was sexually assaulted and murdered by a convicted sex offender and is modeled on legislation which was enacted in Florida.
Under the legislation, mandatory terms of imprisonment would be imposed on persons convicted of aggravated sexual assault against a child under the age of 13. The person would be sentenced to a specific term of years fixed by the court, which would be between 25 years and life imprisonment, of which the person must serve 25 years before being eligible for parole. Under existing law, a person is guilty of aggravated sexual assault, a crime of the first degree, if he commits an act of sexual penetration with a victim under the age of 13. A crime of the first degree is ordinarily punishable by a term of imprisonment of 10 to 20 years or a fine of up to $200,000 or both.
“If ultimately enacted into law, the mandatory sentences called for under the Jessica Lunsford Act will make our streets safer by incarcerating dangerous child predators for longer sentences, if not the rest of their lives,” Connors said. “Prior to the legislation being acted upon by the legislature, our delegation established an online petition in support of the Jessica Lunsford Act to coordinate with the local efforts on this issue. Since 2008, our delegation has supported the Jessica Lunsford Act with the understanding that strengthening our state’s child predator laws is an issue of significant importance to our constituency.”
Rumpf said, “Given the most dangerous of sexual offenders’ propensity to reoffend and remain a danger to the community, the mandatory sentencing requirements, under the Jessica Lunsford Act, are appropriate and needed in the interest of public safety. In fact, since being advanced in the committee process, the legislation has been expanded to provide that a person who purposely harbors a sex offender that has failed to register is guilty of a fourth degree crime and would be subject to a minimum six months in prison. Unquestionably, the Jessica Lunsford Act will solidify State law in sentencing the most dangerous child predators and build upon the overall protections that first began with the enactment of Megan’s Law. ”
Gove said she agreed.
“Our delegation is elated that, finally, the Legislature is moving with deliberate speed to advance the Jessica Lunsford Act as a legislative priority,” she said. “Last week, the Assembly took the first step in that house by unanimously releasing the Jessica Lunsford Act from the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Not only does the Jessica Lunsford Act have widespread public support, but there is growing bipartisan support in the Legislature. Our delegation strongly believes this is due to not only the public safety benefits from the mandatory sentencing requirements but also from the added measure of justice that the Jessica Lunsford Act would bring to victims and their loved ones as well as to the community as a whole directly affected by such tragic and unspeakable crimes.”
Individuals can sign the 9th District delegation’s online petition drive calling for legislative action to be taken on the Jessica Lunsford Act as well as other sex offender legislation. The 9th District Legislators are the prime sponsors of legislation that would prohibit a convicted sex offender from residing within 500 feet of an elementary or secondary school, playground, or child care center. They are also prime sponsors of legislation that would require sex offenders be tiered (a determination of risk for re-offense) prior to their release from prison.