Recently a news organization published a photograph of a Megan’s Law sex offender. The photograph was taken from a flier distributed by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office to schools, day care centers, businesses and families. Because re-publication of the photograph is a violation of the law, we thought this would be a good time to remind reporters and editors of the law in this area.
New Jersey law requires the county prosecutor’s office to alert certain specific members of the public when a sex offender is living in their neighborhood. Individuals entitled to receive the notification are specifically listed in a court order. Only those individuals can be told about the sex offender. As part of the notification process those individuals must sign an affidavit agreeing not to share the information with the media or others. It also bars those who have been notified from posting the flier, copying the flier and, of course, from attempting to harm or harass the sex offender.
The sole purpose of the flier is to allow the person being informed to protect his or her family from known sex offenders who potentially pose a risk to the community.
We recognize that in many cases the notification creates controversy and may become the subject of news reports. Similarly, we recognize that some of the information contained in the flier is public information that may be obtained from other sources.
However, we would urge news organizations to refrain from re-publishing photographs on the flier or information that would only be available through the flier. If this office can be of help in anyway, we urge you to contact Katherine Carter, the public information officer, at 973-621-4021. She can put you in touch with the Megan’s Law Unit.