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Megan's Law & Sex Offender Registry


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June 14, 2010 Return to News & Events

Megan's Law

Megans Law and the making of the US Online Sex Offender Registry System

Megan's Law became active in 1996.  This law put the burden of sex offender registration and community notification square on the laps of the State, not the federal government.  Although community notification is demanded by Megan’s Law, it is up to each state to determine the criteria for the level of disclosure they want to reveal to the general public.

The United States currently has sex offender registries in all 50 US States.  This is primarily due to Megans Law and the evolution of registration requirements and the goal of effective community notification.  Although states like California had their own sex offender registry long before Megans Law was passed, it lacked proper notification and therefore effectiveness.  Even though California has been tracking sex offenders within its borders for over 50 years, it still was difficult for the public to find out any details on these sex offenders.  The main reason for this is that you couldn't just load up your computer and search for offenders online, like you can do today.  Back then sex offender information could only be accessed by making a non-toll free phone call or actually going to the police station or sheriff's department yourself.

Each state is now required to maintain a database of sex offenders registered in their respective state.  Some of these sex offender registries are stricter than others but all of them include high-risk offenders and individuals who have been convicted of, found guilty of or plead guilty to committing or attempting to commit sexual offenses.  The offender list contains child molesters and predators that have abused children and have a high propensity to do it again.

The national sex offender registry system has its origins from Megan’s Law and the Jacob Wetterling Act of 1994.  It was the unconscionable rape and murder of little seven year old girl Megan Kanka that created widespread national public demand for neighborhood and local community notification and awareness of registered sexual predators living within striking distance of kids and young teens. Megans Law is the term that has been coined for victimization of children by sex offenders, most notably repeat offenders.  It is also used in describing the creation and current status of the national sex offender registry system within the USA. 

Megans Law has helped generate sex offender awareness and the creation of the national sex offender registry in the USA.  Since Megans Law, there have been further additions and amendments to the legislation surrounding sex offender registration and community notification within the United States.  It still isn’t a perfect system, but does help families and communities protect their children better.  It is still a good idea as a parent, guardian, school, community leader, organization facilitator etc., to perform sex offender searches proactively to protect those under your care.

Placing an offender search today is easy and can be done online in minutes.  CriminalBackgroundRecords.com has been giving this free sex offender search with each criminal background check order for years and still continues to do so today.

Here is a timeline of the history of the sex offender registry system development in the USA:

1990 – Washington State’s Community Protection Act
The Community Protection Act included United States first law authorizing public notification when dangerous sex offenders are released into the public.  These dangerous offenders are criminals whose history or institutional behavior indicates they present significant risk to the community.

1994 - Jacob Wetterling Act
The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act is passed as part of the Federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. This law requires states to implement a sex offender and crimes against children registry and requires sex offenders to register with their states sex offender registry.

Below are the reasons used for passing sex offender legislation and why registration and notification are essential in combating child molesting, violent rape and other sex related crimes against children within the United States of America:

  • Sex offenders pose a high risk of re-offending after release from custody;
  • Protecting the public from sex offenders is a primary governmental interest;
  • The privacy interests of persons convicted of sex offenses are less important than the government’s interest in public safety;
  • Release of certain information about sex offenders to public agencies and the general public will assist in protecting the public safety.

Community Notification – Megan’s Law allows the States discretion to establish criteria for disclosure, but compels them to make private and personal information on registered sex offenders available to the public. Community notification:

  • Assists law enforcement in investigations;
  • Establishes legal grounds to hold known offenders;
  • Deters sex offenders from committing new offenses;
  • Offers citizens information they can use to protect children from victimization.

1996 – Megan’s Law
On May 17, 1996, President Clinton signed Megan's Law.  Megan's Law amends the Wetterling Act and requires states to establish a community notification system.  Megans Law requires both sex offender registration and community notification.    The burden of offender registration and community notification falls on the State.  Each State has to maintain an active list of registered offenders that currently reside within that State.  The State then also needs to publically make available notification of predators that live within the communities of that State.

1996 - The Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act of 1996
This act also amends the Wetterling Act by requiring lifetime registration for recidivists and offenders who commit certain aggravated offenses. It also aims to build a national database maintained by the FBI for purposes of investigating and tracking of the following types of criminals:

  • People who have been convicted of a criminal offense against a victim who is a minor
  • People who have been convicted of a sexually violent offense
  • A person who is a sexually violent predator.

1998 – Amendment to Jacob Wetterling Act
Provisions contained in Section 115 of the General Provisions of Title I of the Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (CJSA) amend the requirements of the Wetterling Act to include heightened registration requirements for sexually violent offenders, registration of federal and military offenders, registration of nonresident workers and students, and participation in the National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR).

2000 – Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act
The Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act amends the Wetterling Act, requiring offenders to report information regarding any enrollment or employment at an institution of higher education and to provide this information to a law enforcement agency whose jurisdiction includes the institution.

2003- Information about Sex Offenders/Predators can now be posted online
The U.S. Congress passed three laws that require States to keep track of sex offenders; the Wetterling Registration Act, the Lynchner Tracking and Identification Act and Megan’s Law. On March 5, 2003, The Supreme Court ruled that information about potential predators may be posted on the Internet.

2006- Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act
On July 27, 2006 President Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act otherwise known as the Adam Walsh Act (AWA). One important component requires the U.S. Justice Department to create a public accessible Internet based national sex offender database that allows users to specify a search radius across state lines. The result is the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website.  SORNA is the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act which is part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.  SORNA provides the minimum requirements for registration of sex offenders.  The purpose of SORNA is to make more specific the rules of sex offender registration and to strengthen the overall national programs in place for registration and notification

Facts about Sex Offenders

If a child does not tell anyone about the abuse, it is because he or she must have consented to it.

False. Children often do not tell for a variety of reasons including the offender's threats to hurt or kill someone the victim loves, as well as shame, embarrassment, wanting to protect the offender, feelings for the offender, fear of being held responsible or being punished, fear of being disbelieved, and fear of losing the offender who may be very important to the child or the child's family.
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Most men who commit sexual offenses do not know their victim.

False. 90% of child victims know their offender, with almost half of the offenders being a family member. Of sexual assaults against people age 12 and up, approximately 80% of the victims know the offender.
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Most sexual assaults are committed by someone of the same race as the victim.

True. Most sexual assaults are committed by someone of the same race as the victim. An exception to this is that people who commit sexual assault against Native Americans are usually not Native American
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Most child sexual abusers use physical force or threat to gain compliance from their victims.

False. In the majority of cases, abusers gain access to their victims through deception and enticement, seldom using force. Abuse typically occurs within a long-term, ongoing relationship between the offender and victim and escalates over time.
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Most child sexual abusers find their victims by frequenting such places as schoolyards and playgrounds.

False. Most child sexual abusers offend against children whom they know and with whom they have established a relationship. Many sexual assaults of adult women are considered "confidence rapes," in that the offender knows the victim and has used that familiarity to gain access to her.

The above Facts about Sex Offenders came from the Office of the Attorney General, Department of Justice on the State of California’s Website on the webpage:  http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov/facts.htm  - please visit this web address for the full list of Sex Offender Facts.

We would like to recognize The KlaasKids Foundation website for our readers that are looking for rich online content related to Megan’s Law and the current state of the USA National Sex Offender Registry.  A substantial amount of contributing information for this article was found on the KlassKids Foundation website found at: www.klaaskids.org - The Foundation’s mission is to stop crimes against children

This has been a CriminalBackgroundRecords.com News Publication - All rights reserved
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