Megan’s Law Tier Hearings in New Jersey
Once a person is placed on Megan’s Law, there needs to be a tier hearing. The tier that they are on impact the level of community notification. The goal of the defendant is to be on the lowest tier possible. In order to determine the tier level, the prosecutor will use the Registrant Risk Assessment Scale or RRAS for adult or the Juvenile Risk Assessment Scale or JRAS for juveniles. After going through each box on the scale, the score is totaled up and depending on where the person falls, it will determine the tier.
There are two ways to attack the proposed tier at the tier hearing. The first is to argue that the State scored the defendant wrong by not applying one factor or another appropriately or because a fact relied upon is disputed. Of course, this attack only has a chance for success if it would actually bring the score down a tier. Shaving a few points but keeping the defendant in the same tier as proposed by the State is hardly a win.
The other way to attack the proposed tier is to argue that the RRAS or JRAS does not apply to the defendant for one reason or another. Oddly enough, experts in the field have argued that these models are outdated and that new scales may be a better predictor of recidivism and therefore, impact the tiering of the defendant. This requires the defendant to work with an expert in this field which of course, costs money for the defendant. As a result, tier hearings can be a little costly and thus out of reach for some defendants. However, if the defendant does have the resources available, it may be possible to defeat the State’s motion for a higher tier.