Twentynine Palms, CA
Megan’s law is an informal name for laws in the United States requiring law enforcement authorities to make information available to the public regarding registered sex offenders. Individual states decide what information will be made available and how it should be disseminated. Commonly included information includes the offender's name, picture, address, incarceration date, and nature of 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’s Law is named after a 7-year-old Hamilton Township, New Jersey girl named Megan Nicole Kanka. On July 29, 1994, she was lured into her neighbor’s home with the promise of a puppy and was brutally sexually assaulted and murdered by a two-time convicted sex offender who had been convicted in a 1981 attack on a 5-year-old child and an attempted sexual assault on a 7-year-old. Sparked by community outrage, petitions began circulating throughout the state of New Jersey demanding the right to be made aware of sexual predators. Megan’s parents, Maureen and Richard Kanka, had gathered more than 430,000 signatures, and 89 days after Megan’s disappearance the first state law that mandated active community notification was signed into law, New Jersey’s Megan’s Law.
The Kankas along with other advocates across the country, such as Marc Klaas,
MEGAN’S LAW 3 Patty Wetterling, John Walsh and many other victims and advocates, successfully lobbied federal lawmakers to pass the May 1996 federal version of Megan‘s Law. The Kanka family founded the Megan Nicole Kanka Foundation to ensure that every possible step is taken to help prevent the future victimization of children.
The federal version of Megan’s Law differed drastically from New Jersey’s version of Megan’s Law. The federal law required all 50 states to release information to the public about known convicted sex offenders when it was necessary to protect their safety but did not mandate active notification. If a state failed to comply with minimal release of information standards established by the federal government, then that state risked losing federal crime-fighting funding. The federal mandate to release information to the public is often mistakenly referred to as (Welchans 2005) community notification when, in actuality, the federal mandate required just the release of information to the public – not active notification. There is a significant difference between simply releasing information (making it available for the public to access on its own) and active community notification, where law enforcement officers or designated government agents actively go door to door or send out mailings to inform neighbors and schools. The federal Megan’s Law did not require all 50 states to enact active notification laws, whereas New Jersey’s state Megan’s Law had specific requirements for active community notification.
Before Megan's Law
On October 22, 1989, 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling bicycled with his brother Trevor, 10,
MEGAN’S LAW 4 and friend Aaron 11, to their Minnesota home from a convenience store where they had rented a video. Their ride home was interrupted by a masked man who stepped out of a driveway with a gun and ordered the children to throw their bikes into a ditch and lie face down on the ground. After asking the boys their ages he told Jacob’s brother and friend to run into the woods and not look back or he would shoot them. No arrest was ever been made and Jacob has...
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