Legislation signed Thursday will allow New Jersey judges to restrict Internet access for convicted sex offenders and make it easier for law enforcement to monitor their online activity.
The law, S-1979, would limit Internet access for certain sex offenders who are subject to Megan's Law registration or community supervision for life or who are on probation or parole.
The law, which takes effect in 60 days, allows a sentencing court, in addition to other conditions, to impose any or all of these restrictions:
- Prohibit the offender from accessing or using a computer or any other device with Internet capability without the prior written approval of the court, except for use, with the permission of a parole or probation officer, in connection with employment or to look for a job.
- Require the offender to submit to periodic unannounced examinations of his or her computer or other Internet device by a probation officer, law enforcement officer or assigned computer or information technology specialist.
- Require the offender to submit to the installation on his or her computer or other Internet device, at his or her expense, one or more hardware or software systems to monitor their Internet use.
- Require the offender to submit to any other appropriate restrictions concerning his or her use or access of a computer or any other Internet device.
All four conditions would be mandatory if the trier of fact finds that a computer or any other device with Internet capability was used to facilitate the commission of the underlying crime.
A covered sex offender who fails to comply with the Internet access conditions imposed commits a fourth-degree crime. It is also a fourth-degree crime for a Megan's Law registrant to fail to apprise the appropriate law enforcement agency about his or her access to the Internet.
The law directs the state attorney general to approve training programs for those charged with its enforcement, including instruction in conducting investigations in which computers, telecommunications devices and other high technology instruments are utilized in the commission of sex offenses.
Sen. Richard Codey, D-Essex, the chief sponsor, signed the law as acting governor, Gov. Jon Corzine being out of the country.
Codey and the Assembly sponsor, Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex, introduced the measure after The New York Times reported in May that some 7,000 convicted sex offenders had registered accounts at the social networking site MySpace.com. The law passed both houses of the Legislature without opposition.
Florida and Nevada are the only other states to have enacted similar restrictions.