Megan's Law

In 1994, seven-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and murdered by her neighbor Jesse Timmendequas in Mercer County, New Jersey. The incident attracted national attention and resulted in the introduction of “Megan’s Law” which was imposed federally in 1996 by the United States Department of Justice. The requirements of Megan’s Law varies from state to state but at the federal level it requires:

  1. Providing public dissemination of information from states’ sex offender registries [3].
  2. Providing the information collected under state registration programs could be disclosed for any purpose permitted under a state law [3].
  3. State and local law enforcement agencies must release relevant information necessary to protect the public about persons registered under a State registration program established under the Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act [3].

    Such information made public includes:

    • Detailed maps centered on the street address one inputs with nearby offenders’ home addresses indicated on the map.
    • Full names, aliases, and addresses of offenders
    • Color photos of the offenders
    • A description of the crime committed by each offender
    • The ability to check any address including schools, day care centers, and homes of relatives and friends.                                                                          

    Requirements vary by state as well as severity of the crime committed.

    What Happened?                                                                                           

    Megan’s neighbor, Jesse Timmendequas, lured her into his house where he proceeded to rape and kill her. Timmendequas placed her body in a nearby park, which he later led the police to after confessing to the crime. The incident attracted national attention due to the fact that Timmendequas had two previous convictions for sexually assaulting young girls. The incident highlighted the shortcomings of the fact that though law enforcement agencies did require sex offenders to register into a database, the information was kept private and did not need to be shared with members of the community of which a sex offender resided. This event aided in initiating public discourse on reform for policies that pertain to sex offenders’ registration requirements.

    The Outcome                                                                                   

    Megan Kanka’s murder resulted in the passing of Megan’s Law in 1996, which requires sex offenders to register into a database that is publicly accessible. Furthermore, the law mandates that sexual offenders must notify the community of their conviction when moving into a neighborhood and may even receive life in prison for repeat offenses [1]. These policies are intended to prevent incidents like Megan’s from occurring again. In response to the federal passage of Megan’s Law in 1996, all of the 50 states in America have gradually formed their own versions of Megan’s Law and include various requirements. Some states require registered sex offenders to post signs outside their home, bumper stickers on their car, and even carry a temporary placard for when they travel in someone else’s car [2]. These requirements vary from state to state and involve a large range of potential implications. Some people argue these laws are appropriate to help protect society from sex offenders, while others consider it inappropriate to brand people and their families for the rest of their lives [2].

    Failure to register in a database can result in a felony or more jail time. Although registration is mandatory, the state of California still managed to lose track of 44% of its registered offenders due to them eluding authorities by leaving the state [2]. Nationally, 52% of rapists are arrested for new crimes within three years of leaving prison, according to the U.S Justice Department [2]. Due to these shocking statistics, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was passed in 2006. This act requires all states to adopt stricter standards for registration of sex offenders and aid authorities in the prevention of offenders escaping registration requirements. These laws have major implications for sex offenders and communities alike and are constantly being debated on a state and federal level. Each individual case is very different therefore, the line between what is necessary and what is invasive becomes blurred.

    For more information regarding registered sex offenders in your area check out these websites:

    Megan’s Law

    Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website

    Family Watchdog

    For tips on keeping your children safe visit:

    Kids Live Safe

     

    References

    1. "About Megan's Law." MegansLaw.ca.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov/homepage.aspx?lang=ENGLISH>.
    2. Greenberg, Jerrold S., Clint E. Bruess, and Sara B. Oswalt. Exploring the Dimensions of Human Sexuality. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2014. Print.
    3. “Legislative History.” Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2015. http://ojp.gov/smart/legislation.htm

    Last Updated 16 May 2015.

     

     

     

     


     

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