Posted by: Patricia Salkin | May 18, 2009

NJ Supreme Court Tosses Local Residency Restrictions for Convicted Sex Offenders

The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the appellate court’s judgment striking down ordinances in Cherry Hill Township and Galloway Township that established residency restrictions that formed buffer zones for convicted sex offenders living within their communities.  The local ordinance in Galloway Township provided that anyone required to register as a sex offender under state law was prohibited from living within 2,500 feet of a school, park, playground or daycare center in the township. Upon being notified of a violation, the offender would have six months to move or face a fine of up to $5,000, prison up to six months and a requirement for community service for up to 90 days.  A grandfather clause exempts anyone who established a residence prior to the enactment of the local ordinance.  The Cherry Hill ordinance is similar, but it provides that each of a violation is a continuing and separate offense, and fines per offense can be as high as $1,250, together with imprisonment for up to 90 days and up to 90 days of community service.   

For essentially the same reasons, the Supreme Court held that these local residency restrictions are precluded by the present, stark language of Megan’s Law. The Court noted that at oral argument the municipalities urged them to provide guidance about the limits to Megan’s Law’s preemption of municipal action in respect of convicted sex offenders. The Court declined to do so, noting that the judicial function operates best when there is a concrete dispute presented, and that they would not provide answers to hypothetical questions nor issue advisory opinions to function in the abstract.

G.H. v. Township of Galloway, 2009 WL 1272549 (NJ 5/7/2009).

The opinion can be accessed here.

For an article discussing residency restrictions for convicted sex offenders, click here.

Read a blog entry about residency restrictions here.

Thanks to Dwight Merriam, Esq., FAICP of Robinson & Cole in Hartford, CT for sending this update to Law of the Land.

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