Megan's Law is an informal name for laws in the United States that require law enforcement authorities to make information available to the public regarding registered sex offenders. It was created after the murder of Megan Kanka. Individual states decide what information will be made available and how it should be distributed. Most give out the offender's name, picture, address, Prison date, and nature of the crime. The information is often displayed on free public websites, but can be published in newspapers, distributed in pamphlets, or through various other means.
Megan Kanka[change | change source]
Richard and Maurine Kanka and their three children lived in a small town in New Jersey. On 29 July 1994 their daughter Megan was lured into a neighbor's house to see a non-existent puppy. There she was raped and murdered by her abductor, Jesse Timmendequas. Timmendequas had just recently been released from prison after his second conviction on sexual offenses against children. He had served six of the ten years of his sentence. Searches for the girl turned up nothing. The local police quickly focused on three known sex offenders living across the street from the missing girl. Police released two of the suspects when they verified where they were. Timmendequas became the main suspect. He was released after several hours of interrogation. After obtaining a search warrant detectives searched Timmendequas's trash and found a piece of Megan Kanka's clothing. Timmendequas was questioned again and after several hours told police "She's in the park." When police then asked if she was still alive Timmendequas said "No, she's dead. I put a plastic bag over her head."
The Kankas were outraged to find they were living across the street from a convicted child sex offender. Two days after her murder, the parents of Megan Kanka started the "Megan Nichole Kanka Foundation". The mission of the foundation is to identify the location of convicted child sex offenders in every community.
The Laws[change | change source]
Maurine Kanka began pushing for laws disclosing the need to notify residents of the presence of convicted sex offenders in their communities. New Jersey was the first state to pass a "Megan's law." In 1995 the Supreme Court of New Jersey upheld the State law. The continuing efforts resulted in President Bill Clinton signing the federal version of "Megan's Law." The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Law, or "Megan's Law", was signed in May 1996. This was the first part. The second, or notification part of the law, was signed on 13 November 1996. It gave states one year to pass state versions of Megan's law. The District of Columbia and forty-seven states met the deadline and passed their own versions of the law. The notification portion of the law requires states to make public information about all sex offenders. They may each choose how they want to implement that part. Under the law sex offenders are grouped in risk bands based on the nature and details of their offense. The public is not notified of 'low risk' sexual offenders. Information on 'Medium risk' offenders is disclosed to schools and day care center. 'High risk' sexual offenders' information is disclosed to the public.
Shortcomings of Megan's law[change | change source]
Megan's law is not without problems. As many as 20% of offenders have disappeared after providing false addresses. Others make sure to offend outside their own neighborhoods where they are not readily identified. Some states release information on offenders only if officials there decide it is necessary. While many states are open and disclose offender information readily, some are very restrictive as to who the information is released to. Many offender databases are inaccurate and often mistake one person for another. Plea bargans can make sex offense charges go away when negotiating with prosecutors. They sometimes get 'pled down' to lesser offenses.
References[change | change source]
- Ronald A. Rufo, Sexual Predators Amongst Us (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2012), p. 171
- John Douard; Pamela D. Schultz, Monstrous Crimes and the Failure of Forensic Psychiatry, p. 14
- The Congressional Record; proceedings and debates of the 107th Congress, second session, Vol. 148, Pt. 3 (March 11, 2002 to April 10, 2002), p. 3198
- George J. Wren Jr., Jersey Troopers II: The Next Thirty-Five Years (1971-2006) (Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2009), pp. 290–91
- Rose Corrigan, 'Making Meaning of Megan's Law', Law & Social Inquiry, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Spring, 2006), p. 267
- Julia Davidson, Child Sexual Abuse: Media Representations and Government Reactions (New York: Routledge-Cavendish, 2008), p. 86
- Cindy L. Miller-Perrin; Robin D. Perrin, Child Maltreatment: An Introduction (Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2013), pp. 315–16
- Marcia Stewart; Ralph E Warner; Janet Portman, Every landlord's legal guide (Berkeley, CA: Nolo, 2012), p. 24