By Christopher Baxter
TRENTON - A state Assembly panel today advanced a bill that would require sex offenders to pay part of their monitoring costs under Megan’s Law and toughen penalties for those who violate its provisions.
The bill (A3886), which was approved 10-0 by the lower house's Law and Public Safety Committee, would charge newly convicted sex offenders a $30 monthly fee that would go into a state fund to pay for supervision. The money would also help authorities monitor what offenders do online.
The bill now goes to the full Assembly for consideration. An identical measure passed the Senate in June.
The bill would also:
- Upgrade penalties for sexual assault if the victim is physically or mentally incapacitated. The crime would be second degree, as opposed to the current third degree, carrying a sentence of 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
- Increase the penalty for failure to register a new address with authorities from a fourth-degree to a third-degree crime.
- Clarify that a juvenile caught "sexting" with a cell phone – sending racy pictures of other minors – would not have to register as a sex offender.
- Include low-level offenders whose conduct has been deemed "repetitive" and "compulsive" in publicly accessible online databases. Currently, mid-level offenders and up can be seen publicly.
- Provide money from the supervision fund to upgrade computer equipment so authorities can monitor sex offenders’ online activity.
- Prohibit parole officers from handling more than 40 sex offender cases.