On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 373 N.J. Super. 559 (2004).
(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).
(NOTE: The Court wrote no full opinion in this case. Rather, the Court's reversal of the judgment of the Appellate Division is based substantially on the reasons expressed in Judge Wecker's dissent below.)
The issue in this appeal is whether defendant's failure to annually verify his address under Megan's Law, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1 to -19, constitutes a fourth-degree crime. The appeal arises from the denial of defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment.
In 1994 a judgment was entered adjudicating defendant delinquent for an aggravated sexual assault. He was placed on probation and thereafter registered under Megan's Law with the Washington Township Police Department. He moved and later returned to Washington Township, re-registering and signing a form indicating that he understood that his failure to register, re-register, verify his address, or provide correct information constituted a fourth-degree crime. Defendant failed to verify his address and was indicted by the Morris County Grand Jury for failure to register under N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2a, a fourth-degree crime.
Defendant moved for dismissal, arguing that his failure to verify his address was not a failure to register under Megan's Law. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. Defendant filed a motion for leave to appeal with the Appellate Division.
On December 22, 2004, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court's decision, concluding that Megan's Law gives fair notice that a failure to verify annually is a crime. State v. Gyori, 373 N.J. Super. 559 (App. Div. 2004). The court concluded that registration includes verification under N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2e and that the "overarching purpose" of the legislation left no room for any other interpretation.
Judge Wecker, dissenting, concluded that failure to verify one's address is not itself a separate fourth-degree crime, as is the failure to register, re-register, or the failure to notify the appropriate law enforcement agency of a change of address. Judge Wecker emphasized that the burden is on the Legislature to provide proper notice of a penalty as it did in subsections a (2) and d, but that it failed to do so. Judge Wecker further concluded that defendant's execution of a form acknowledging that he could be charged with a fourth-degree crime for failure to verify his address at a later date is not a substitute for legislative action.
The Supreme Court granted defendant's petition for certification.
HELD: The judgment of the Appellate Division is REVERSED substantially for the reasons expressed in Judge Wecker's dissent. The indictment is dismissed.
JUSTICES LONG, LaVECCHIA, ZAZZALI, ALBIN, WALLACE and RIVERA-SOTO join in this opinion. CHIEF JUSTICE PORITZ did not participate.
The judgment of the Appellate Division is reversed and the cause remanded to the Superior Court for entry of an order dismissing the indictment substantially for the reasons expressed in the dissenting opinion of Judge Wecker ...