Acting Gov. Richard Codey signed bill S1979 into law Thursday and announced that it will provide the state with nearly unparalleled authority to monitor or restrict Internet access by convicted sex offenders.
The law prohibits anyone convicted of using a computer to commit a sex offense from using computers or accessing the Internet for part or all of their parole. It also allows the State Parole Board to impose Internet restrictions on sex offenders who did not use a computer to facilitate their crimes.
The law requires the parolees to allow unannounced examinations of their computer equipment and the installation of monitoring hardware or software. It also would require convicted sex offenders to tell authorities if they have access to a computer or other devices that can access the Internet and obtain written approval to use computers or the Internet.
Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex/Mercer, a primary sponsor of the legislation, said the federal government has not enacted laws limiting Internet access for sex offenders. Florida and Nevada have enacted restrictions. Greenstein said the bill gives New Jersey residents some security.
"When Megan's Law was enacted, few could even envision a day when a sex offender hiding behind a fake screen name would be a mouse-click away from new and unwitting victims," she said in a statement. "Sex offenders cannot be given an opportunity to abuse the anonymity the Internet can provide as a means of opening a door to countless new potential victims."
Sen. John Girgenti, D-Bergen/Passaic, a co-sponsor of Megan's Law, said that "by taking computer and Internet access away from those who use these devices to commit sex crimes, we are reducing the risk of them being tempted to be a repeat offender."
Codey said in a statement that the law will give the people of New Jersey "some of the toughest tools in the nation to crack down on the growing threat of Internet predators."
He added, "Hopefully this law will help a lot of parents sleep easier at night."