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Restricting Where Convicted Pedophiles Can Live in NJ [AUDIO]

Statehouse
Kevin McArdle, Townsquare Media

In 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for municipalities to put such severe restrictions on where convicted sex offenders could live that they could not live anywhere in certain towns. Legislators have gone back to the drawing board and they think they’ve come up with a bill that does meet constitutional muster.

“My bill, I feel is legal,” says Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt. “It draws it down to 500 feet from a playground, a child care center and a school……It allows the municipalities to develop an ordinance that restricts where level 2 and level 3 sex offenders may live in their municipalities.”

Level 2 and level 3 offenders are considered the most dangerous. Lampitt says because her bill doesn’t put any town completely off limits for sex offenders it is legal. Assemblyman Dan Benson, a co-sponsor of the measure agrees.

Then American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has balked at the restrictions, but that’s not a concern for Benson. He explains, “My focus is on what we need to do to protect our youth. I’m not worried about what the ACLU thinks about this bill. There’s been interest from residents for these (ordinances) for a number of years. We’re doing what we need to do to make sure we can keep our children safe and to make sure that the laws that many municipalities have passed can stay in force.”

The bill establishes specific limitations that the ordinance may impose on sex offenders establishing residences. These ordinances would be applicable to “persons subject to limitations,” which the substitute defines as a person over the age of 21 subject to the registration requirements set forth in Megan’s Law who has been convicted of, adjudicated delinquent or found not guilty by reason of insanity for a sex offense enumerated in Megan’s Law in which the victim of the offense was under 18 years of age, except for those whose risk of re-offense has been determined to be low.

An ordinance enacted pursuant to the bill shall provide that the municipal engineer shall produce a map for the purpose of depicting the location and boundaries of the areas. The original of every map shall be filed with the clerk of the municipality and shall be maintained as an official record of the municipality.

This bill also prohibits a school board from locating a school bus stop within 250 feet of the residence of a high risk (tier three) sex offender unless the relocation of the school bus stop creates a more dangerous condition for a child. In making this determination, the school board is required to consult with the chief law enforcement officer of the municipality. The bill requires the school board to adopt a resolution stating the reason for the relocation of the school bus stop. Finally, the bill prohibits child care centers from being located within 500 feet of the residence of a tier three sex offender.

An identical bill has already been passed unanimously by the State Senate. It must be approved by the full Assembly by Monday or it will have to be re-introduced after the new legislative session begins on Tuesday.

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