For the second time in as many months, a New Jersey Superior Court judge has struck down a municipal sex offender residency restriction in Cherry Hill, a large township bordering the city of Camden in Camden County. According to the Associated Press story:
A judge on Tuesday struck down a Cherry Hill ordinance that places tight restrictions on where in the town convicted sex offenders may live. The ruling echoes a similar ruling from another judge last fall that struck down a sex-offender residency law in Cape May County's Lower Township. Neither ruling affects the more than 40 similar local laws that have been adopted across New Jersey in the last few years.
In his opinion, Superior Court Judge John T. McNeil found that the state's Megan's Law, which requires sex offenders to register their address, trumps the local law. He also said the Cherry Hill law was too broad and that it punishes offenders twice for the same crime. "We can't have potentially hundreds of municipalities around the state creating a hodgepodge mosaic of ordinances in an area that clearly must have a carefully crafted detailed framework," McNeil wrote in his opinion.
The law, adopted in 2005 in one of the state's larger suburbs, bans sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of any school, park, church or other place "where children might congregate." The challenge to the law was brought by James Barclay and Jeffrey Finguerra, both listed as moderate-risk sex offenders. They were both placed by welfare officers in a motel with the approval of their probation and parole officers. But the township told them they had to leave within 60 days. They stayed beyond the deadline as they waited for new housing and, as a result, were convicted of violating the local law.