On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 98-03-00505.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Wefing, Payne and Baxter.
Appellant filed a pro se supplemental brief. The opinion of the court was delivered by PAYNE, J.A.D.
In 1995, defendant, G. L., at age seventeen, pled guilty to conduct that, had he been an adult, would have constituted first-degree aggravated sexual assault on a twelve-year-old in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a(1).*fn1 As a result of the offense, defendant, who was given a three-year suspended sentence and two years of probation, was subject to Megan's Law, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1 to -23, which had been enacted in the previous year and was effective on October 31, 1994. Accordingly, defendant registered with the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office on December 21, 1995.
In 1998, defendant was indicted for failure to re-register pursuant to Megan's Law, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2, having moved to Florida without registering there, as required, and without notifying the prosecutor in New Jersey of the move, although defendant alleges that he did inform his probation officer. Following indictment, defendant was extradited from Florida and pled guilty to the charge of failure to register. At sentencing, defendant stated to the judge:
I'm sorry about not register[ing]. I really am. If I'd a known that I had to register every year, I would have to save myself from this because I was starting life in Florida just recently. We [defendant's family] got a pizzeria and everything and I don't want to go to jail for not registering. And I - I must say I am sorry for not registering and it won't happen again. I mean I'm going to register every year and every change of address. That I can promise you.
Following defendant's statement, the judge noted that defendant "did originally register but apparently did not quite understand his obligation. So I find it a technical violation." He therefore imposed, in accordance with the plea agreement, a sentence of ninety days in county jail, together with appropriate fines and penalties.
However, on July 21, 2000, defendant again violated the registration requirements of Megan's Law. On October 12, 2000, he pled guilty to an accusation charging fourth-degree failure to register pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2, and on December 5, 2000, he was sentenced to three years of probation for failure to register and for violation of a probationary sentence imposed as the result of other charges. When, in 2001, defendant again violated probation and incurred new charges, the judge imposed a four-year custodial sentence for violation of probation, two counts of third-degree theft from the person and aggravated assault on a police officer.
Thereafter, defendant wrote to the prosecutor, among others, seeking to have his 1995 plea vacated because he was not informed of its Megan's Law consequences. Following an investigation, the prosecutor determined that it was questionable whether defendant's plea was knowing and voluntary.*fn2
After consultation with the victim and defense counsel, the plea was vacated and defendant was permitted to plead to fourth-degree child abuse, in violation of N.J.S.A. 9:6-3, an offense that is not subject to Megan's Law. In supplying a factual basis for the new plea, defendant admitted that he had ...