Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Marlene Caride and Annette Quijano to boost the penalties for sex offenders who don’t comply with court-issued internet access restrictions was unanimously approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.
The bill (A-1253) would upgrade the penalties associated with failure to comply with court issued internet access restrictions placed on sex offenders and require sex offenders to provide the appropriate law enforcement agency with their email address, username, or other identifier used on the Internet.
“This is designed to create another layer of protection for the youth of our state who, as we all know, are using social media at an increasingly younger age,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “While some sites may already bar sex offenders, this would create a broader prohibition while also involving law enforcement supervision.”
“Social media has created a complicated new landscape for law enforcement to navigate when it comes to sex offenders,” said Quijano (D-Union). “By prohibiting them from using social networking websites that allow them to interact with just about anyone, hopefully we can prevent potential repeat offenders from preying on anyone under age.”
Under current law, the court is required to impose the following Internet access conditions on anyone who has been convicted, adjudicated delinquent or found not guilty by reason of insanity for the commission of a sex offense facilitated by internet:
(1) Prohibit the individual from accessing or using a computer or any other device with internet capability without the prior written approval of the court. An exception is available for an individual on probation or parole for the limited purpose of searching for employment if prior approval is obtained from the individual’s probation or parole officer.
(2) Require the individual to submit to periodic, unannounced examinations of the person’s computer by a probation officer, parole officer, law enforcement officer or assigned computer or information technology specialist;
(3) Require the individual, at his or her own expense, to submit to the installation of one or more software systems to monitor the internet use;
(4) Require the individual to submit to any other appropriate restrictions concerning the person’s use or access of a computer; and
(5) Require the individual to disclose all passwords used to access data on his or her computer.
Failure to comply with these requirements is currently a crime of the fourth degree. This bill would upgrade the offense to a crime of the third degree, which carries a penalty of three to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.