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New Jersey law restricts some sex offenders from surfing the Web

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Posted: December 27, 2007 5:16 p.m.
Updated: January 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    EWING, N.J. — Convicted sex offenders who used the Internet to help them commit their crimes will be banned from using the Internet under a measure signed into law Thursday.
    The bill applies to people who, for example, lured a potential victim through e-mail or other electronic messages. It also affects paroled sex offenders under lifetime supervision, but exempts computer work done as part of a job or search for employment.
    ‘‘We live in scary times,’’ said Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey, who signed the bill because Gov. Jon S. Corzine is vacationing in the Caribbean.
    Under the law, sex offenders will have to let the state Parole Board know about their access to computers. Those caught using the Internet would face 18 months in jail and a $10,000 fine.
    Convicted sex offenders will have to submit to periodic, unannounced examinations of their computer equipment and install equipment on their computers so their use can be monitored.
    Parole officers can also order polygraph tests for convicts suspected of violating the Internet ban, said Parole Board Chairman Peter Barnes.
    The Parole Board currently supervises about 4,200 paroled sex offenders whose sentencing guidelines call for lifetime supervision — regardless of whether their offenses involved the Internet.
    The board last month approved new rules banning those convicts from using Internet social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.
    The Parole Board imposed the new restrictions after state officials discovered, after subpoenaing several sites, hundreds of profiles registered to convicted sex offenders.
    No federal law restricts sex offenders’ Internet use. Florida and Nevada are the only other states to impose such restrictions.
    Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein, D-Mercer, said the new law provides a needed update to Megan’s Law, which requires sex offenders to register with the state after being released from prison.
    ‘‘When Megan’s Law was enacted, few could 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.

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