On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Sussex County, Docket No. FJ-19-38-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted: September 23, 2009
Before Judges Stern and Sabatino.
C.D. pled guilty to third degree endangering (involving touching with his penis the vagina of a five year old sister), and fourth degree lewdness (for doing so in front of his two year old sister). Other charges were dismissed.
C.D. was under fourteen when the offenses were committed.*fn1 In entering the plea, C.D. acknowledged that he would be subject to registration under Megan's Law, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1 to -19. However, the plea agreement permitted C.D. to argue against the application of Megan's Law.
At the dispositional hearing, C.D. presented Dr. Dean DeCrisce, a child and forensic psychiatrist, who testified that "[i]ncest offenders have the lowest level of reoffense rate and risk compared" to other types of sex offenders. Dr. DeCrisce testified about "the impact that Megan's Law could potentially have on [C.D.]," who had been in sex offender treatment as a result of prior acts. According to Dr. DeCrisce:
My understanding of the purpose of Megan's Law, and I say what my understanding is because that's how I couch how I feel it will affect him, is that the purpose of Megan's Law is to basically notify the community so that they can take proper measures to protect themselves in the face of substantial risk from a sex offender in their community.
And so my understanding is it's to protect people from the risk that can be provided an offender. And I don't feel that [C.D.] represents that type of risk towards the community or that type of -- the application of that law, if you will, as appropriate to his type of offenses or to his specific case. I feel that it could be potentially very harmful to him for a number of reasons.
A: One is that -- I mean certainly the Court is quite aware there's quite a bit of stigma associated with sex offending. There is attitudes in the community of what that means that are usually not correct, and that it's likely that he would be pigeon-holed with -- or labeled with that type of stigma, which would carry regardless of where the family moved, what school he went to, if he was tiered, and he very well may be tiered as a tier two because of the age of the younger sibling, that that could require schools to be notified, which is where -- he's not a 40 year old man and schools are being notified, he's a kid in those schools that would be notified. So that means the school officials would know, summer camps would know, people around him would know.
I understand that there is a reasonable attempt to try to keep that private, but there is the realistic view of what could be done with that, and that in his formative years I believe that would significantly impact on his ability to make interpersonal relationships with his peers, which I already stated was, I believe, one of the problems that he has, and his ability to in his later adolescents, to apply for a job, to go on appropriate healthy dating situations, to apply for college, that this would interfere with all these things and really label him with the sex offender label, and where he could be, as I stated, rejected by his peers, teachers and maybe family members. So that's one risk.
One is that it reinforces the identification as a sex offender. I'm not sure that that's the best -- that that's what should be what is reinforced in a child, as opposed to an adult offender and may -- I believe that he has a tendency towards depression and I diagnosed him with a possible dysthemic disorder. And I believe that these things would likely push him into depression. I ...