Megan's Law is the common term for state laws that create and maintain a sex offender registry that makes information on registered sex offenders available to the public. Federal law also requires convicted sex offenders (where the victim is a minor) to contact local police of changes of address or employment after release from prison or a psychiatric facility. The extent of which information is publicly available is determined by the states.
This information typically is shared via social media platforms (such as Facebook), public websites, or in printed materials. State reporting requirements are enforced for at least 10 years, with some states requiring lifetime reporting.
Brief History of Megan's Law
The first Megan's Law appeared after the rape and murder of seven year-old New Jersey resident Megan Kanka by a sex offender who lived in the girl's neighborhood. Soon after the passage of this first Megan's Law, the federal government implemented a requirement that all states establish sex offender registries and provide the public with information about the registered offenders.
Prior to Megan's Law (in 1994), Congress enacted the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act . This Act required states to maintain registries of convicted sex offenders and keep track of where they live after their release from incarceration. Megan's Law amended this by requiring public notification.
The Wetterling Act was named after an 11-year-old boy who was abducted at gunpoint by a masked man in Minnesota. His body was found 27 years later. Although the police weren't able to save him, lawmakers hoped the law passed in his name would help others.
Megan's Law in the States
While each state's version of Megan's Law differs slightly, they all require some form of sex offender registration and community notification. The information that states typically collect about the sex offenders includes the offender's name, address, picture, and the nature of their crime. States publish this information on freely available web sites that the public can query in many different way.
Megan's Law: State Resources
The list below contains links to each state's official Megan's Law web site. Follow the links below for access to your state's sex offender registry and information on the operation of your state's version of the law.
Have More Questions About Megan's Law? Ask an Attorney
Because of Megan's law, sex offenders are required to register in their state of residence. While this is intended to notify and protect the public, it can cause a lot of difficulties for someone trying to put their life back together after serving a sentence for such a crime. If you have questions about the implementation of Megan's law and its requirements, you may want to speak with an experienced criminal law attorney in your state.