Megan’s Law modifies the earlier Wetterling Act, which gives law enforcement more powers to track and find sex offenders. The first Megan’s Law was passed in New Jersey following the rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan, mere feet from her home. It was later passed under the Clinton Administration and made federal law.
The federal law requires all states to provide public notification and information about sexual offenders. The result has been the creation of “sex offender registries” and “sex offender maps.” The federal law does not differentiate between sex crimes involving children and those involving adults, everyone must be reported.
These laws vary from state to state, but generally, all convicted sex offenders must report to local authorities to be included as part of the registry. People on the registry must disclose their status and update the administrators of the map whenever they move. Failure to comply could result in prison time. Generally, an offender has about a week to register their new address upon release or move.
Placement on the registry can last from a few years to a lifetime; it depends on upon the severity of the underlying crime. Generally the more severe the crime, the more likely that registration will last for the remainder of their entire life.
Law enforcement agencies may also extend the public disclosure requirements to immediate neighbors, schools and other areas likely to attract potential victims. It is this situation that many people associate with the knocking on your neighbor’s doors and introducing yourself as a sex offender. Police may also reach out to community centers, newspapers, magazines, and any other medium reasonably calculated to inform the public.
The assumption is that neighbors with more information will be better prepared to protect their children and families from potential criminals. It also seeks to discourage future sex-crime acts by forcing the criminal to confront his or hers’ actions.
If you are facing a sex crime charge then you may want to speak to a defense attorney as soon as possible. These are very serious charges that could impact the rest of your life. Megan’s Law is one of the few changes that you may likely experience. An attorney can help devise a defense strategy to assert your rights in the most effective way possible.