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State of New Jersey v Hakum Brown a/k/a Hakeem Brown and
State of New Jersey v. Rodney Brown
Case Number: 083353
Judge: Jaynee LaVecchia
Court: New Jersey Supreme Court
Plaintiff's Attorney: Jennifer E. Kmi andeciak
Just Call 855-853-4800 for Free Help Finding a Lawyer Help You.
Trenton, NJ - Criminal defense attorney represented Rodney Brown and Hakum Brown with a sexual assault and sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child charges.
New Jersey’s law governing the sex offender registration and
notification system, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1 to -23, is commonly known as Megan’s
Law, after the victim of a tragedy that spurred the law’s passage. Enacted in
1994, Megan’s Law imposed a registration requirement on convicted sex
offenders and, in its original form, made failure to register chargeable as a
fourth-degree offense. The statutory scheme has been amended a number of
times. Pertinent here is the 2007 amendment through which the Legislature
prospectively elevated failure to register to a third-degree offense.
These consolidated criminal appeals present a common legal issue:
whether state or federal constitutional ex post facto prohibitions permit
defendants to be charged with and convicted of the enhanced third-degree
offense of failure to comply with sex offender registration requirements when
each defendant’s registration requirement arose from a conviction that
occurred before the penalty for registration noncompliance was raised a
For both defendants in this appeal, failure to register was punishable as a
fourth-degree offense at the time of the predicate convictions that subjected
each to Megan’s Law’s requirements. However, defendants’ failures to
register upon release from unrelated subsequent terms of incarceration
occurred after the increased degree in penalty took effect.
We hold that defendants suffered no ex post facto violation as a result of
being charged with failure-to-register offenses bearing the increased degree.
Defendants committed the charged offenses after the effective date of the 2007
amendments, of which each had fair notice. This Court has consistently
regarded the Megan’s Law registration requirement as a legislatively imposed
regulatory consequence of committing a sex offense, as defined under Megan’s
Law, even though the Legislature has chosen to enforce that administrative
scheme with punitive consequences. The Legislature is free to increase the
penalty for the offense of failure to comply with the regulatory registration
requirement -- which is separate and apart from defendants’ predicate sex
offenses -- without violating ex post facto principles as to those predicate
We distinguish in our holding today our prior decision in State v. Hester,
233 N.J. 381, 398 (2018), where we held that the punishment for a violation of
a sentence of community supervision for life (CSL) cannot be made more
onerous than it was at the time of the underlying crime under ex post facto
principles because the CSL sentence is a punitive consequence of that
underlying offense. In contrast, an individual who violates the registration
requirement and is charged with the offense of noncompliance after the penalty
increase became effective is not subjected to a prohibited retroactive increase
in punishment for a past offense.
In 1995, Rodney Brown (R.B.) was convicted of second-degree sexual
assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2, and was sentenced to three years in prison and CSL.
In 2000, Hakum Brown (H.B.) was convicted of second-degree sexual
assault and third-degree endangering the welfare of a child, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-
4(a). H.B. was sentenced to six years in prison and CSL.
As a result of those predicate convictions, H.B. and R.B. were subject to
the sex offender registration requirements imposed by Megan’s Law.
Specifically, upon release from incarceration, H.B. and R.B. each were
required to register with the police department of the municipality in which he
resided. N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(a)(1), -2(c). At the time of H.B.’s and R.B.’s sexoffender convictions, failure to comply with the registration requirements was
punishable as a fourth-degree offense. L. 1994, c. 133, § 2a. However, in
2007, the Legislature upgraded failure to register to a third-degree offense. L.
2007, c. 19, § 1 (codified at N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(a)(3)).
Pertinent to our present analysis, on August 25, 2014, H.B. was released
from incarceration on an unrelated offense but failed to timely register with his
local police department. R.B. similarly failed to register following his release
from incarceration (again on an unrelated offense) on December 23, 2015.
Each was charged with third-degree failure to register under N.J.S.A. 2C:7-
2(a)(3), as well as third-degree violations of CSL, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.4(d).
H.B. pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. He
appealed his conviction, asserting there is an ex post facto violation in being
charged with third-degree failure to register when, at the time of his predicate
sex-offender conviction, failure to register was only a fourth-degree offense.
R.B. pleaded not guilty to a parallel set of charges. He moved to dismiss
his indictments on ex post facto grounds, and the trial court granted R.B.’s
The State did not raise a waiver argument before either the Appellate
Division or this Court, hence waiver is not an issue in this appeal.
motion in its entirety. In doing so, the court applied State v. F.W., 443 N.J.
Super. 476 (App. Div. 2016), which held that it violated ex post facto
principles to charge an individual with third-degree violations of CSL when, at
the time of one’s predicate sex-offense conviction, violation of CSL was a
fourth-degree offense. After applying that reasoning to the CSL charges in
R.B.’s indictment, the trial court determined that the logic of F.W. applied
with equal force to R.B.’s indictment for third-degree failure to register.
The State appealed the dismissal of R.B.’s indictments; that appeal was
stayed when we granted certification in Hester to consider the ex post facto
argument in connection with the increase in offense degree for CSL violations.
After we issued our decision in Hester, the State conceded that R.B. and H.B.
could be charged with only a fourth-degree offense for their alleged violations
of CSL. Thus, the State abandoned the portions of its appeals concerning
defendants’ CSL violations. With respect to the remaining common issue
permeating both appeals, on July 31, 2019, the Appellate Division
consolidated the State’s appeal in R.B.’s matter with H.B.’s appeal from his
conviction. Thus, the consolidated appeals focused solely on the increase in
offense degree for defendants’ failure-to-register offenses.
In an unpublished decision, the Appellate Division reversed H.B.’s
conviction for the third-degree offense of failure to register and affirmed the
dismissal of R.B.’s indictment for the same offense.
The appellate court began by reviewing the decision in Hester, homing
in on its conclusion that CSL is a condition of an offender’s sentence and that
violations of CSL therefore relate back to the date of the predicate sex offense
for ex post facto purposes. The court then referenced a recent published
opinion of the Appellate Division that considered whether to apply Hester’s
holding in respect of CSL violations to the offense of failure to register. State
v. Timmendequas, 460 N.J. Super. 346, 350 (App. Div. 2019). The
Timmendequas decision, written by the same appellate panel as in the instant
appeal, observed that the Legislature’s intent in penalizing failure to register
was punitive, even if the requirements themselves were not, and that an ex post
facto analysis was therefore compelled. Id. at 355. The Timmendequas court
concluded that, properly viewed, registration requirements are a condition of
an offender’s sentence, and the State’s enhanced penalties for failure to
register thus impermissibly “materially altered defendant’s prior sentence to
his disadvantage.” Id. at 357 (alterations omitted) (quoting Hester, 233 N.J. at
The appellate court followed the holding in Timmendequas in the instant
appeal and similarly concluded that the logic of Hester should apply to
Megan’s Law’s registration requirements. Accordingly, the Appellate
Division held that H.B. and R.B. could be charged with failure to register only
to the extent that the law permitted at the time of their predicate sex offenses,
namely as a fourth-degree offense.
The State filed a petition for certification, which this Court granted. 240
N.J. 426 (2020).2
We also granted amicus curiae status to the American Civil
Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU).
Before this Court, the State maintains its position that there is no ex post
facto violation in applying the 2007 amendment to N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2 to sex
offenders who commit the new crime of failing to register after the effective
date of the amendment. According to the State, the violation of the civil
requirement of registration is a separate offense distinct from the original
conviction that was the predicate for being placed on Megan’s Law. The State
maintains that applying the amendment to a post-amendment failure to register
is not a retroactive increase in punishment for a past offense.
A motion for leave to appeal in Timmendequas is currently pending before
In a joint brief, defendants take the opposite view. Defendants argue
that the 2007 amendment to Megan’s Law, which had no purpose other than to
increase the penalty for failure to register, may not be applied retroactively
with respect to the predicate offense without violating the Ex Post Facto
Clauses of the State and Federal Constitutions. The ACLU urges, consistent
with the position of defendants, that mandatory registration under Megan’s
Law be viewed as part-and-parcel of defendants’ sentences for their underlying
offenses and that therefore, as was held in Hester for CSL, failure to register
should not be regarded as a new offense. Amicus thus contends that the 2007
amendment retroactively makes the punishment more burdensome for the same
offense in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clauses.
In 1994, the Legislature enacted Megan’s Law, now codified at N.J.S.A.
2C:7-1 to -23, for the express purpose of establishing a sex offender registry
that would “provide law enforcement with additional information critical to
preventing and promptly resolving incidents involving sexual abuse and
missing persons.” N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1(b). The law requires any individual
convicted of certain sex offenses to register with the police department of the
municipality in which he or she resides. N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(c). Megan’s Law
further provided at the time that failure to register was punishable as a fourthdegree offense. L. 1994, c. 133, § 2(a). In addition, annual address
verification obligations and registration requirements are imposed on a
registrant who moves into or out of New Jersey or changes his or her
residence. See N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(c), (d).
In Doe v. Poritz, 142 N.J. 1 (1995), this Court upheld Megan’s Law
against a series of constitutional challenges. In relevant part, this Court held
the law’s registration requirements could be imposed on individuals whose
predicate sex offenses predated the law’s passage without running afoul of
State or Federal Ex Post Facto Clauses. Id. at 75. Integral to that holding was
the conclusion that the law’s registration requirements were remedial rather
than punitive. Id. at 73. Our Court acknowledged that although the State
cannot impose retroactive punishment on individuals for their past offenses,
the law’s registration requirements were instead a “collateral consequence” of
an individual’s conviction, id. at 77 n.18, which did not raise the same
constitutional concerns, id. at 75. That determination was key. Because the
In 2014, legislative amendments to subsection (d) increased to an offense of
the third degree the penalty for failing to notify and re-register upon
relocation. Because both defendants were being released from prison when
charged with their offenses in this matter, they were not charged under
subsection (d), although subsection (d)’s obligations apply to them.
Court found the registration requirement to be regulatory and remedial, the
Court held that Megan’s Law’s retroactive application to persons who had
already been convicted of eligible sex offenses in this and other jurisdictions
did not subject past offenders to additional punishment and did not offend the
Ex Post Facto Clauses. Ibid. That foundational determination has never been
shaken. This Court has consistently treated the registration requirement as a
civil consequence. State v. Perez, 220 N.J. 423, 440 (2015) (describing the
registration requirement as an “administrative obligation” distinct from a
punitive consequence); see also Riley v. State Parole Bd., 219 N.J. 270, 297
(2014) (referring to Megan’s Law as a “nonpunitive civil statute”); In re
Commitment of J.M.B., 197 N.J. 563, 601 (2009) (describing Megan’s Law as
a “remedial, non-punitive statute”).
In 2007, the Legislature amended Megan’s Law, upgrading failure to
register from a fourth-degree offense to a third-degree offense. L. 2007, c. 19,
§ 1. The enhanced penalties applicable to an offense graded as third degree
are significant. While a fourth-degree offense carries a prison term of no
greater than eighteen months, an individual convicted of a third-degree offense
may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment between three and five years.
N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6(a)(3) to (4). The 2007 amendments took effect on March 1,
2007. L. 2007, c. 19, § 3.
That increase in penalty for failure to register gives rise to the present ex
post facto challenge.
Both the New Jersey and United States Constitutions prohibit the
Legislature from passing ex post facto laws. N.J. Const. art. IV, § 7, ¶ 3 (“The
Legislature shall not pass any . . . ex post facto law . . . .”); accord U.S. Const.
art. I, § 10, cl. 1. We have interpreted the Ex Post Facto Clause in the State
Constitution in the same manner as its federal counterpart. Doe, 142 N.J. at
42. Those clauses proscribe “any statute which . . . makes more burdensome
the punishment for a crime, after its commission.” Beazell v. Ohio, 269 U.S.
167, 169 (1925); see also Weaver v. Graham, 450 U.S. 24, 30 (1981)
(emphasizing that the Ex Post Facto Clause seeks not to guarantee “an
individual’s right to less punishment, but [to guard against] the lack of fair
notice and [to promote] governmental restraint when the legislature increases
punishment beyond what was prescribed when the crime was consummated”).
The prohibition on ex post facto laws thus advances two primary purposes: “It
assures that individuals can rely on laws until they are ‘explicitly changed,’
and it restricts the government from passing ‘potentially vindictive
legislation.’” Riley, 219 N.J. at 284 (quoting Carmell v. Texas, 529 U.S. 513,
Two findings must be made for a law to violate the prohibition on ex
post facto laws. First, the court must determine whether “the law is
‘retrospective,’” meaning “it ‘appl[ies] to events occurring before its
enactment’ or . . . ‘changes the legal consequences of acts completed before its
effective date.’” Id. at 285 (first alteration in original) (quoting Miller v.
Florida, 482 U.S. 423, 430 (1987)). “Second, the court must determine
whether the law, as retrospectively applied, imposes additional punishment to
an already completed crime.” Ibid. (citing Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346,
In considering the question at hand, we find that Doe v. Poritz’s lantern
lights the way to our conclusion.
Since this Court first upheld the Megan’s Law registration of sex
offenders, including sex offenders whose predicate convictions occurred prior
to Megan’s Law’s enactment, the registration requirement has been viewed as
a nonpunitive consequence of the predicate conviction, no matter when the
predicate conviction occurred. Doe, 142 N.J. at 43. Scrutinized under an ex
post facto lens, the registration obligation was held in Doe v. Poritz to be a
regulatory scheme, remedial in legislative intent and effect, and “designed
simply and solely to enable the public to protect itself from the danger posed
by sex offenders.” Id. at 73; cf. United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 747
(1987) (“There is no doubt that preventing danger to the community is a
legitimate regulatory goal.”). Moreover, the Doe Court noted that simply
because a regulatory program has “some deterrent punitive impact . . . does not
. . . transform those provisions into ‘punishment.’” 142 N.J. at 75.
Doe placed the registration scheme decidedly in the nonpunitive
category, and ever since it has been treated accordingly by this Court as a civil,
administrative consequence for individuals who have been convicted of an
eligible sex offense in New Jersey or another jurisdiction and are deemed
repetitive and compulsive. See Perez, 220 N.J. at 440 (describing registration
as an “administrative obligation”). That the violation of that regulatory
scheme is enforced through separate criminal charges when and if the violation
occurs does not make the registration requirement itself penal, as Doe
recognized. Therefore, the registration requirement survived its initial ex post
facto challenge in Doe -- it is not part of the penal sentence for the predicate
The registration and regulatory scheme also has overcome Double Jeopardy
Clause challenges, which use a similar analysis for determining whether
registration imposes a “punishment” on an individual. Federal courts have
reached the same conclusion that we did in Doe: the law’s registration
requirements constitute non-punitive civil remedies rather than criminal
Distilled to its essence then, registration is retroactive but not punitive.
Prosecution for failing to register, however, is different. It addresses a
separate crime and is punitive but not retroactive.
Viewed accordingly, just as the Legislature was permitted to affix a
criminal penalty for the prospective violation denominated as failure to
register, so too may it prospectively enhance the degree of such a penalty. It
did not before constitute enhancement of punishment for the original predicate
offense, and now, when increased by a degree, it is simply a prospective
enhancement of an offense for which defendants had fair notice.
Thus, the legislative increase in punishment that the 2007 amendments
prescribed for those subject to Megan’s Law’s registration requirements who
fail to register after the amendments’ effective date does not contravene the
fair-notice requirement that the prohibition against ex post facto legislation
protects -- it does not “increase punishment beyond what was prescribed
when the crime was consummated.” See Weaver, 450 U.S. at 30.
penalties. The Third Circuit held in Artway v. Attorney General that Megan’s
Law’s registration requirements were not punitive for purposes of ex post facto
or double jeopardy analysis. 81 F.3d 1235, 1271 (3d Cir. 1996). The court
observed that registration “historically is a regulatory technique with a salutary
purpose.” Id. at 1266. The Third Circuit similarly upheld Megan’s Law’s
notification requirements in the face of ex post facto and double jeopardy
challenges. E.B. v. Verniero, 119 F.3d 1077, 1081, 1105-07 (3d Cir. 1997).
We add, in closing on this point, that federal cases in the Third Circuit
addressing the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act
(SORNA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 16901 to 16962, treat similarly ex post facto
challenges to failure-to-register offenses by individuals whose original sex
offenses predated the federal law’s passage. See United States v. Shenandoah,
595 F.3d 151, 158-59 (3d Cir. 2010), abrogated in other part by Reynolds v.
United States, 565 U.S. 432 (2012); see also Pavulak v. United States, 248 F.
Supp. 3d 546, 569 (D. Del. 2017) (finding such a conviction lawful). Other
circuits have reached similar conclusions. See, e.g., United States v. Wass,
954 F.3d 184, 190-92 (4th Cir. 2020); United States v. Felts, 674 F.3d 599,
606 (6th Cir. 2012) (“[C]ircuit courts have consistently held that SORNA does
not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause.”). Those cases all rely on the proposition
that failure to register is an offense distinct from the original underlying sex
offense, which is consistent with the Supreme Court’s dicta in Smith v. Doe:
“A sex offender who fails to comply with the reporting requirement may be
subjected to a criminal prosecution for that failure, but any prosecution is a
proceeding separate from the individual’s original offense.” 538 U.S. 84, 101-
02 (2003) (emphasis added).
And, as the State correctly points out in its argument, other state
supreme courts also have concluded that failure to register is a separate crime
from the original sex offense. See State v. Cook, 187 P.3d 1283, 1290 (Kan.
2008) (“[T]he principles underlying the Ex Post Facto Clause do not apply to
protect [a defendant’s] failure to register after the amendments became
effective.”); Buck v. Commonwealth, 308 S.W.3d 661, 668 (Ky. 2010)
(“[C]riminal liability for failure to register is prospective and not a punishment
for past crimes.”); State v. Howard, 983 N.E.2d 341, 348 (Ohio 2012) (holding
that the defendant’s notice of the increased penalty for failure to register was
fatal to his ex post facto claim); State v. Gibson, 182 A.3d 540, 558 (R.I.
Defendants’ argument, buttressed by the ACLU and espoused both in the
Appellate Division decision in this matter and in the earlier decision in
Timmendequas, takes its foundation from a body of case law that has
considered the ex post facto implications of amendments to other aspects of
Megan’s Law. The extrapolation from those decisions is misplaced, as we
Since Doe v. Poritz settled the question of the ex post facto impact of
imposition of a registration requirement on sex offenders, including persons
whose predicate offenses predated the enactment of Megan’s Law, much of our
subsequent examination of ex post facto considerations in connection with
Megan’s Law has focused on a specific component of Megan’s Law, namely
the Violent Predator Incapacitation Act, which imposed a term of CSL on
individuals convicted of certain sex offenses. See L. 1994, c. 130, §§ 1, 2.
Individuals subject to CSL are supervised by the Parole Board and face
limitations on their liberty, including requirements of
approval of their residence, N.J.A.C. 10A:71-
6.11(b)(5); approval of any change of residence,
N.J.A.C. 10A:71-6.11(b)(5)-(6); and approval of
employment and notice of any change in employment
status, N.J.A.C. 10A:71-6.11(b)(14)-(15). A defendant
under CSL may be subjected to a yearly polygraph
examination, N.J.A.C. 10A:71-6.11(b)(21); imposition
of a curfew, N.J.A.C. 10A:71-6.11(b)(17); and
restrictions on access to and use of the internet,
[Perez, 220 N.J. at 437.]
In 2003, the Legislature replaced CSL with parole supervision for life
(PSL), a more restrictive post-release regime. L. 2003, c. 267. Unlike CSL,
an individual sentenced to serve PSL can be returned to prison without a trial
by jury. N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.63. Instead, the Parole Board need only produce
clear and convincing evidence of a parole violation at a hearing held by an
administrative officer. Ibid.
In Perez, we considered whether the Legislature could retroactively
convert an offender’s sentence of CSL to a sentence of PSL. Defendant
Richard Perez, who was serving CSL as a result of a 1998 conviction, pled
guilty to an additional sex offense in 2011. 220 N.J. at 427, 429. Perez was
sentenced pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.4, which provides for an enhanced
term without parole for “individuals who commit an enumerated offense while
serving [PSL].” Id. at 427. The State argued that the enhanced term applied to
Perez because the Legislature’s change of CSL to PSL was one of form rather
than substance. Id. at 432. This Court rejected that argument, holding that the
State could not treat CSL and PSL identically because converting individuals
from CSL to PSL status retroactively would enhance the punitive
consequences of their sentences. Id. at 442. We stressed that both “CSL and
PSL were and are intended to be penal rather than remedial post-sentence
supervisory schemes.” Id. at 441 (citing State v. Schubert, 212 N.J. 295, 314
(2012)). Because the conversion of CSL to PSL worked such consequences as
eliminating an offender’s opportunity for future parole and placing offenders
“in the legal custody of the Commissioner of Corrections,” we held that such
retroactive enhancement of an offender’s sentence violated the Ex Post Facto
Clause. Id. at 441-42 (quoting N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.4).
In a subsequent decision, we were called on to consider amendments to
CSL, which still applies to certain sex offenders. In 2013, the Legislature
amended N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.4 so that violation of a condition of CSL,
previously a fourth-degree offense, was made punishable as a third-degree
offense; the Legislature also compelled a mandatory conversion from CSL to
PSL. L. 2013, c. 214, § 4; see also N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.4(a), (d). In Hester, we
held that it violated the Ex Post Facto Clause to impose those heightened
sanctions on individuals who began serving CSL prior to enactment of those
provisions. 233 N.J. at 385.
The defendants in Hester had each been placed on CSL when violations
were punishable as a fourth-degree offense. Id. at 395-96. After the
defendants violated the terms of their CSL, they were charged with thirddegree offenses under the 2013 amendments to N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.4. Id. at 385.
We first concluded that the defendants’ CSL violations should not be viewed
as independent crimes but as “violations of the general conditions of their
supervised release.” Id. at 397. Because CSL’s release requirements were
“integral parts” of the defendants’ sentences, “[t]he punishment for violating
those regulatory requirements . . . was established when defendants committed
their crimes and received their sentences [of CSL].” Ibid. By enhancing the
penalty for violating those requirements, the Legislature had impermissibly
sought to “materially alter defendants’ prior sentences to their disadvantage.”
Id. at 398. We noted in particular the inequity of changing the terms of an
offender’s sentence to permit conversion to PSL:
Under PSL, the Parole Board has the authority to
simply revoke a defendant’s supervised release for a
violation of a general condition and bypass the panoply
of procedural rights afforded under the criminal justice
system, such as the rights to trial by jury and to have
guilt proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In Perez, the
State conceded “that the almost-universal practice since
the enactment of [PSL] is to revoke a defendant’s
parole and return him to prison” for a condition-ofrelease violation rather than prosecute him for a crime.
[Id. at 396 (alteration in original) (footnote omitted).]
Accordingly, we held in Hester that increasing the defendants’ penalty for
violating CSL violated the Ex Post Facto Clause by retroactively “enhanc[ing]
the punitive consequences” of their sentences to their detriment, just as it had
in Perez. Id. at 398 (quoting Perez, 220 N.J. at 442).
The logic advanced by defendants and amicus, and adopted by the
Appellate Division in this matter and in the prior published opinion in
Timmendequas, is inconsistent with the foundational reasoning of Doe v.
Poritz. Doe recognized the registration requirement as an administrative
obligation rather than a penal consequence of the original predicate sex
offense; the fact that violations of that administrative obligation are themselves
separately punishable does not alter the nature of the obligation itself. Thus,
imposition of that obligation did not involve a retroactive increase in
punishment for the predicate crime. And, by extension, increasing the penal
consequences for a violation of that obligation is similarly distinct from the
punishment imposed for the predicate crime.
To the extent that the Appellate Division’s analysis in this matter and in
Timmendequas is rooted in in the reasoning espoused in Hester, moreover, it
fails to account for the key distinguishing feature in that appeal. Hester
involved aspects of the application of CSL and PSL. Both are recognized not
as administrative obligations, but rather as punitive measures imposed as part
of the supervised release of an offender convicted of a qualifying offense. As
Perez noted, when comparing CSL to registration, CSL is different in kind
because it is punishment for the predicate offense -- the offense that caused the
sentence to include CSL. 220 N.J. at 440. And as for PSL, our case law is
replete with the acknowledgment that parole is continued punishment for the
offense that carries it as part of the sentence, rendering the individual in the
continued custody of the Department of Corrections. Thus, in Hester as in
Perez, claims of retroactive imposition of punishment related to enhancement
of supervised release that was a condition of a sex offense sentence.
In sum, Hester involved a different and distinguishable setting than the
one posed here -- an increase in offense degree imposed on prospective
violations of the Megan’s Law registration requirement.
Finally, the logic espoused by the Appellate Division and the defendants
here is further undermined by Riley, in which we considered whether the
requirements of the Sex Offender Monitoring Act (SOMA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-
123.89 to -123.95, could be applied to an individual whose predicate offenses
predated the law’s enactment. 219 N.J. at 274. SOMA requires qualifying sex
offenders to wear an electronic ankle bracelet that tracks their movements via
global positioning satellite (GPS). Id. at 277. Individuals subject to this
monitoring were required to ensure that their bracelet was continuously
charged, provide advance notice of any out-of-state travel, and report their
weekly work schedules to a parole officer. Id. at 276-77. We concluded that
the burdens of twenty-four-hour GPS monitoring and the attendant
requirements of reporting to a parole officer “clearly place[d] this law in the
category of a penal rather than civil law.” Id. at 275. Applying the factors set
forth in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 168 (1963), we noted
that SOMA’s monitoring regime “looks like parole, monitors like parole,
restricts like parole, serves the general purpose of parole, and is run by the
Parole Board.” Id. at 294. That similarity with parole, which this Court has
consistently held to be punitive, see Schubert, 212 N.J. at 308, compelled the
conclusion that SOMA was a punitive law subject to the Ex Post Facto Clause,
Riley, 212 N.J. at 297.
Riley illustrates that Megan’s Law registration requirements are not
rendered punitive merely because they are policed by penal means. Our focus
in Riley was on the punitive or nonpunitive nature of SOMA’s GPS
monitoring imposed retroactively on certain individuals, not on the
unquestionably penal nature of a prospective prosecution for failure to comply
with that monitoring. Under the logic of the argument in support of defendants
and the decision under review, Riley’s conclusion that continuous GPS
monitoring is punitive was purely superfluous -- the decision could have rested
simply on the fact that the monitoring was policed by punitive means, namely
the threat of prosecution for non-compliance. But Riley expressly found that
“[t]he constraints and disabilities imposed on Riley by SOMA, and SOMA’s
similarity to parole supervision for life, clearly place this law in the category
of a penal rather than civil law.” Id. at 275. And just as the potential
prosecution for a SOMA violation was not what rendered SOMA punitive, the
potential prosecution for failure to register does not render the registration
obligation punitive in its own right.
Review of those cases reveals that Doe is the most relevant to the
circumstances present here, and adherence to Doe’s determination that
registration is not punitive should have precluded reliance on cases dealing
with punitive consequences such as PSL, CSL, and SOMA in the context of a
challenge predicated on the registration requirement.
For those reasons, we disapprove of the analysis of Timmendequas and
reverse the Appellate Division’s decision in this matter, which relied on
Timmendequas to find an ex post facto violation in the third-degree charges
brought against defendants.
In rejecting the arguments pressed on behalf of defendants, we agree
with the position advanced by the State that adoption of such a view would
raise uncertainty regarding the State’s ability to enforce Megan’s Law’s
registration requirements against any offender whose predicate convictions
predated the law’s passage -- a position clearly understood in Doe. Those
requirements have been in place for over two decades, and we are unaware of
any support for the proposition that their enforcement against pre-1994
offenders raises ex post facto concerns. See, e.g., State v. S.R., 175 N.J. 23,
26 (2002) (noting such a conviction). And, if the Legislature has the authority
to create new penalties for noncompliance with administrative obligations, as
it did in Megan’s Law, it would be incongruous if it could not prospectively
upgrade the penalty for violating an existing administrative obligation.
Outcome: The judgment of the Appellate Division is reversed. R.B.’s matter is
remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this
opinion’s holding. We reinstate H.B.’s conviction and sentence.