NJ Justices to Hear Sex Offenders Case

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The New Jersey Supreme Court will on Tuesday hear a case to keep an ordinance on the books that prevents sex offenders from living near schools, libraries and playgrounds.

In the case G.H. v. Township of Galloway, the court will hear arguments on whether towns can restrict where sex offenders live or if that conflicts with New Jersey's Megan's Law, which only notifies communities of their whereabouts.

The American Center for Law and Justice represents the Township of Galloway.

"Not only is the ordinance in question legal, it is critically necessary for protecting New Jersey's children from convicted sex offenders," said Vincent McCarthy, senior attorney the ACLJ.

"We are confident that the state's highest court, after reviewing the flaws in lower court decisions, will uphold the Galloway ordinance and take the necessary action to protect the children of New Jersey."

In 2005, the Township of Galloway enacted the ordinance, which required a buffer zone of 2,500 feet between the sex offender residences and places where children normally congregate - specifically, schools, playgrounds, parks and day care centers.

The ordinance was intended to compliment Megan's Law, which requires anyone convicted of committing a sex crime against a minor to register in the community in which he or she lives.

The law was challenged by a college freshman who was living on campus in a dorm. The student -- referred to as "G.H." -- was given 60 days to vacate because he is considered a sex offender due to an incident that occurred when he was 15.

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law and the appellate court overturned Galloway's buffer zones, holding that they constitute additional punishment to the sexual predator who already has paid his or her debt to society.

They found that because Megan's Law was so "comprehensive," the state already influenced where sex offenders could live.

"This is a decision for the Legislature and not for each individual municipality," wrote Appellate Division Judge Joseph Lisa. "The fact that the Legislature refrained from enacting such a statewide restriction indicates a legislative belief that Megan's Law... already addressed the issue."

More than 100 towns across the state have laws prohibiting sex offenders from living near places where children congregate, but the legal challenge may change that.

Sources: ACLJ, NJ.com

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