Q&A: When a Sex Offender Lives in My Building

Q. Is a board legally obligated to notify tenants when a sex offender resides in the building? What do we do?

         —Concerned for the Community

A. “New Jersey led the nation in the fight to notify of potential dangers of sex offenders,” says attorney Eric Brophy of Diegnan & Brophy, which has offices in Morristown and Wall Township. “In fact, Megan’s Law originated in New Jersey following the death of Megan Kanka.  However, the law balances public safety against the rights of the convicted offender, and is not intended to be a blanket excuse to harass offenders.  Therefore, along with the notification regulations, the New Jersey legislature provided careful guidance on how that notification may be utilized.  While notification under N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1, et. seq. ('Megan’s Law') is important to public safety, it comes with restrictions.

“Initially, it is the duty of the chief law enforcement officer of the municipality in which the offender intends to reside to provide notice to the public as required by the Attorney General’s guidelines on such notifications.  Offender registration shall also be made available and published on a central internet registry maintained by the New Jersey State Police.  N.J.S.A. 2C:7-13.  This registry shall be made available to the public.

“However, notice and the accompanying online registry does not infer any affirmative rights to residents that live near convicted offenders.  In fact, Megan’s Law permits the use of information gleaned from notification “. . . in any manner by any person or by any public, governmental or private entity, organization or official, or any agent thereof, for any lawful purpose consistent with the enhancement of public safety.”  N.J.S.A. 2C:7-16(a).   Information may not be used “. . . for the purpose of applying for, obtaining, or denying any of the following. . . (1) health insurance; (2) insurance; (3) loans; (4) credit; (5) education, scholarships, or fellowships; (6) benefits, privileges, or services provided by any business establishment, unless for a purpose consistent with the enhancement of public safety; or (6) housing or accommodations.” N.J.S.A. 2C:7-16(c).

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