NJ lawmaker wants sex offenders to register e-mail

September 7, 2008 10:11:15 AM PDT
New Jersey sex offenders - who already must tell state authorities where they live and work - would be required to divulge their personal e-mail addresses and share their passwords as well, under a proposal sponsored by a lawmaker who represents the district where Megan's Law began. Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein, D-Mercer, said the new restrictions would allow parole officers to monitor convicted sex offenders' e-mail use.

"Anonymous Internet usage wasn't envisioned when Megan's Law was enacted, but it's now commonplace," Greenstein said. "We have a duty to ensure sex offenders cannot hide behind a secretive user name when hunting for new potential victims."

Greenstein, who is chairwoman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, has supported other laws restricting sex offenders.

The current bill, A-1554, would extend Megan's Law restrictions on paroled sex offenders, including those under lifetime supervision.

Greenstein represents the central New Jersey district where 7-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and murdered by a neighbor, a convicted sex offender. Megan's parents said they would have warned their daughter had they known about the neighbor. They successfully lobbied for community notification of a sex offender's presence.

Megan's Law, first enacted in New Jersey in 1994 before spreading to other states and federal law, mandates notification whenever a sex offender moves into a neighborhood. Many states publish sex offenders' addresses online.

The current proposal would require anyone under Megan's Law restrictions to register their e-mail addresses and passwords. It also would require offenders to notify the state of any e-mail address changes 10 days before sending or receiving electronic correspondence, and would subject sex offenders under supervision to periodic, unannounced examinations of their computers.

The maximum penalty for those who don't comply would be up to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

The bill has been referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

A similar bill in the last legislative session was approved by that committee, but did not advance further.

The New Jersey Legislature adopted a law in January makes it illegal for some registered sex offenders to use the Internet.

The state law restricts Internet use for anyone who used a computer to help commit his original sex crime, such as trying to lure a potential victim with electronic correspondence. The law also may be applied to paroled sex offenders under lifetime supervision, but exempts computer work done as part of a job or search for employment.

The state Parole Board last year also adopted a rule prohibiting sex offenders under their supervision from using the Internet to socialize or use social networking sites.

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