Megan's Law is named after a 7 yr. old
Hamilton Township, New Jersey girl named Megan Nicole Kanka.
On the tragic day of July 29, 1994,
she was lured into her neighbor's home with the promise of seeing a puppy.
Instead, Megan was brutally raped and murdered by a two-time convicted
sex offender who had been convicted in 1981 of an attack on a 5-year-old
child and an attempted sexual assault on a 7-year-old.
Eighty-nine days after Megan Kanka's
disappearance, New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman signed the first
state-level version of what we know as Megan's Law.
The passage of Megan's Law in New
Jersey eventually led to the May 1996 passage of a federal law which is
also known as Megan's Law.
New Jersey's Megan's Law has made
specific mandates for active community notification which ensures that
the community will be made aware of the presence of convicted sex offenders
who may pose a risk to public safety.
Under New Jersey's law, if a convicted
sex offender is determined to pose a moderate risk of re-offending then
schools and community groups likely to encounter that offender will be
If an offender is determined to pose
a high risk of re-offending, then schools, community groups and members
of the public, such as neighbors who are likely to encounter the offender,
will be notified.
Parents nationwide have been under
the false impression that they, too, would be notified of a resident sexual
predator, because of the false assumption that New Jersey's state law is
the same as each individual state's law.
The federal version of Megan's Law
is drastically different than New Jersey's version of Megan's Law. The
federal law requires all 50 states to release information to the public
about known convicted sex offenders when it is necessary to protect their
safety but do not mandate active notification.
If a state fails to comply with minimal
release of information standards established by the federal government,
then that state risks losing federal crime-fighting funding.
The federal mandate to release information
to the public is often mistakenly referred to as community notification
when, in actuality, the federal mandate requires 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, when law enforcement
officers go door to door to inform neighbors and schools.
The federal Megan's Law does not
require all 50 states to enact active notification laws, whereas New Jersey's
Megan's Law has specific requirements for active community notification.
Not all 50 states allow this data to be viewed on the internet as well.