STOP SEX OFFENDERS | NJ: New Jersey Closer To New Megan's Law
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NJ: New Jersey Closer To New Megan's Law.

December 19, 2000

The New Jersey legislature is working on a proposed Megan's Law that, if passed and signed into law, would make sex offender disclosure the specific obligation of law enforcement agencies -- and not real estate brokers.

Debate on the law is especially poignant in New Jersey, where 7-year-old Megan Kanka was killed by a sex offender living in the neighborhood --- sparking the national outcry for child protection. Kanga's assailant had twice before been convicted of sex offenses against children before he moved to the Kanga's neighborhood. The child's parents and neighbors were outraged that they had not been informed of his presence.

In mid-December the New Jersey General Assembly passed a bill creating a sex offender Internet registry. The state Senate, however, has not yet introduced a similar bill.

The General Assembly's action came after passage of a state constitutional amendment in November approving the disclosure of the names and addresses of convicted sex offenders to the general public.

Once the sex offender Web-site is developed and posted on the Internet by the Attorney General's office, any member of the public will be able to download the name and location of the sex offender.

NJAR President Timothy J. Richards said the association was continuing to work with the legislature to make sure home seller rights are protected, regardless of whatever version of the law is finally passed.

"When this happens, the New Jersey Association wants to ensure that thousands of New Jerseyans who sell their homes are protected and understand the law," Richards said.

"Currently, the public disclosure of a sex offender's identity is not permitted, so it's illegal for home sellers to disclose any Megan's Law information. Once the list of sex offenders becomes public, however, questions concerning a seller's responsibilities could arise and create confusion for both sellers and buyers.

"That is why we support (efforts) to make it absolutely clear that sellers, lessors, and real estate licensees are not responsible for obtaining registry information once the sex offender list becomes public on the Internet."

Richards indicated, however, Realtors would alert home buyers to the whereabouts of the sex offender data.

"We at the New Jersey Association of Realtors are prepared to amend our contracts of sale and our lease agreements to alert buyers and tenants to the state's official Internet registry Web site," he said.

Since Megan Kanga's death in 1994, almost every state has adopted some kind of law requiring disclosure of the presence of sex offenders in neighborhoods. President Clinton signed a federal law mandating disclosure in 1996.

Source: Realty Times