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NJ Teens 'Horseplay:' Sex Offender Status for Life

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on July 21, 2011 6:50 AM

Two New Jersey teens from Somerset County who engaged in horseplay are sex offenders for life, unless their convictions are overturned on appeal. Megan's Law in New Jersey requires lifelong registration of sex offenders, which the boys unfortunately fall under, according to a three-judge panel at the appellate court.

The two boys were 14-years-old at the time of the incident. Both had sat on the faces of two schoolmates, both 12 at the time, with bare buttocks, reports The Star-Ledger.

One of the boys pled guilty to criminal sexual contact. The other went to trial, where he was found guilty of criminal sexual contact as well, and both boys received the same sentence, The Star-Ledger reports.

Acts are considered criminal sexual contact in New Jersey if they're done to degrade or humiliate the victim, or if they were done for sexual gratification, according to The Star-Ledger. In this case, the trial judge had found that the boys had meant to humiliate or degrade their two schoolmates.

Other appellate panels have ruled that actions that amount to "horseplay" are exempted from Megan's Law, according to The Star-Ledger. The two boys in this case, however, were not as lucky, as the appellate panel in New Jersey ruled that the "horseplay" was not exempt from the registration requirement.

Unfortunately for the two boys, their conviction means that they will have to register as sex offenders under Megan's Law. Under New Jersey's Megan's Law, juvenile offenders under the age of 18 are required to register just like adults. They must register for the rest of their lives, but registrants can apply to be removed from the list if they have not committed an offense in 15 years, have only committed one offense, and can demonstrate that they are no danger to others.

The two "horseplay" sex offenders do have some glimmer of hope of avoiding Megan's Law in New Jersey: their convictions could be overturned. The appellate court sent their two cases back to Superior Court: one boy has a hearing on whether or not his counsel was ineffective, and the other on whether or not he understood what he was getting himself into when pleading guilty, reports The Star-Ledger.

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