Megan's Law has been enacted in all 50 states. Megan's Law has
been designed so that child sex offenders register in their state
and police make this information available to the public. One
of the key features of Megan's Law is the acknowledgement of the
high rate of offenders who repeat their crimes after they are
released from custody. Because of public outcry, the judicial
system has upheld most parts of Megan's Law saying that the privacy
interests of convicted child felons are not as important as the
government's broader interest in public safety.
Megan Nicole Kanka
Megan's Law was signed into legislation by President
Bill Clinton, on May 17, 1996, after the brutal rape and murder
of Megan Kank. Previously, in 1990, Washington State enacted the
Community Protection Act, which included America's first law authorizing
public notification when dangerous sex offenders are released
into the community.
In 1994, in a New Jersey suburb of Hamilton Township, 7-year-old
Megan Nicole Kanka was raped and killed by a previously twice-convicted
child molester who lived right across the street from the Kanka
residence. At this time, the laws did not allow the police to
release sex offender information to the community. Later in 1994,
the Jacob Wetterling Act required the States to register individuals
convicted of sex crimes against children
In 1996, the law was changed and signed into action by Clinton.
On September 25, 1996, the California State Legislature implemented
Megan's Law to allow potential victims and their parents and guardians
to protect themselves from such convicted offenders. This was
not totally new to California as they have had laws since 1947
requiring sex offenders to register with the state.
Megan's Law has allowed states to enact community notification
standards. These standards help law enforcement in investigations
by establishing legal grounds in order to hold known sex offenders,
deter offenders from repeating offenses and allows communities
information and means to protect their children from victimization.
The laws are not meant to punish the offender and it is illegal
to use this information to harass or commit and other crimes against
the offender. The laws are for public protection services only.
The community standards enacted by prosecutors usually classify
child sex offenders into three levels or tiers based on the degree
of risk they pose to the public: high (Tier 3), moderate (Tier
2) or low (Tier 1). Neighbors are notified of high-risk offenders.
Registered community organizations involved with children or with
victims of sexual abuse, schools, day care centers and summer
camps are notified of moderate and high-risk offenders because
of the possibility that pedophiles and sexual predators will be
drawn to these places. For low-risk sex offenders, usually only
the law enforcement agencies are notified.
In order to find out more information about Megan's Law in your
particular state, see our Resources page for other sites that
carry this information.
In order to download a PDF file of the New Jersey Attorney General's
Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration,
In order to read the full text of Megan's Law, check out Megan's