THE MEGAN'S LAW TIER CLASSIFICATION HEARING IN NEW JERSEY
The Registrant Risk Assessment Scale.
In the State of New Jersey, shortly after a Megan's Law offender is released from prison or shortly after he or she is placed on probation, the State (oftentimes the applicable County Prosecutor's Office) will serve him or her with a Registrant Risk Assessment Scale ("RRAS") form. The purpose of this form is to outline the basis for a Megan's Law Tier classification.
The Megan's Law Tier Classification.
In New Jersey, Megan's Law offenders are designated as a Tier 1 (Low Risk), Tier 2 (Moderate Risk) or Tier 3 (High Risk). The Tier classification decision an extremely important part of the Megan's Law process and can have a dramatic effect upon the life of someone convicted of a Megan's Law offense. The higher the Tier the greater the public notification associated with the offense.
a. Tier 1 Notification.
If someone is classified as Tier 1, the notification will likely be limited to just those law enforcement agencies who are expected to encounter such an individual because the likelihood to re-offend is deemed to be low.
b. Tier 2 Notification.
If a Megan's Law offender is classified as Tier 2 (Moderate Risk) then not only will local law enforcement agencies be notified but notification will also include those community organizations, agencies and groups which are likely to encounter such an individual. In addition to these entities, local educational institutions, licensed day care centers and licensed summer camps are also notified. Tier 2 offenders may also appear in the New Jersey Sex Offender Internet Registry.
c. Tier 3 Notification.
Tier 3 offenders are deemed to be High Risk offenders. Notification for Tier 3 offenders includes community organizations and law enforcement agencies, camps, day care centers, schools and members of the public likely to encounter the offender. In addition, all Tier 3 offenders are listed in the New Jersey Sex Offender Internet Registry.
The Registrant Risk Assessment Scale ("RRAS") Scoring System.
The method of assigning an individual to Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 involves a scoring system know as the Registrant Risk Assessment Scale. The RRAS is an actual form broken down into 13 separate categories. The State looks at the facts and circumstances underlying the offense(s) that an individual has been found guilty of and assigns points to each category. The 13 categories used by the State in the RRAS form are:
1. Degree of Force Used; 2. Degree of Contact With the Victim; 3. The Age of the Victim;
4. Victim Selection (household member, acquaintance or stranger); 5. The Number of Offenses or Victims; 6. The Duration of the Offensive Behavior; 7. The Length of Time Since Last Offense; 8. History of Anti Social Acts; 9. Response to Treatment; 10. History of Substance Abuse; 11. Therapeutic Support; 12. Residential Support; and 13. Employment/Educational Stability.
The total number of points assigned to an individual determines what Tier he or she is assigned. A score of 0 to 36 is deemed to be a "Low Risk" or Tier 1 offender. A score of 36 to 73 is deemed to be a "Moderate Risk" or a Tier 2 offender. A score of 74 or above is deemed to be a "High Risk" or a Tier 3 offender.
Challenging the Tier Classification.
Once the Registrant Risk Assessment Scale form is filled out by the State, it is sent to the Megan's Law offender along with a letter notifying him or her of the right to challenge the Tier classification. He or she is generally given 14 days within which to notify the applicable Superior Court Judge assigned to the case and the State that he or she wants to challenge the Tier classification.
If the Tier classification is challenged, it is generally heard in the County where the underlying offense occurred by a Superior Court Judge assigned to handle Megan's Law Tier challenges. The Tier hearing is like most judicial proceedings in New Jersey. Prior to the hearing, the State will generally produce a "Discovery Packet" containing such things as the Judgment of Conviction, the Indictment or Accusation underlying the offense, the applicable portions of the offender's Pre-Sentence Report and the completed RRAS form. The offender will also generally have an opportunity to submit a packet of information outlining his or her objection to the Tier classification reached by the State. The Court will set a date for argument and will, on that date, generally hear argument from the State and from the offender's attorney on each of the 13 categories underlying the RRAS. The Court will then determine whether or not the State's Tier classification is appropriate or not.
If you have received a Megan's Law Tier Notice it is critical that you promptly preserve your right to challenge the State's Tier classification. At Brickfield & Donahue both Mr. Donahue and Mr. Brickfield are Certified Criminal Trial Attorneys. Mr. Donahue and Mr. Brickfield routinely handle Tier Hearings and Megan's Law Cases throughout Northern New Jersey. Please contact BRICKFIELD & DONAHUE to discuss your case at (201) 488-7707.