Congress passed the Sexual Offender Act of 1994, better known as "Megan’s Law," in order to force states to set up registries designed to keep track of convicted sex offenders and to report their addresses to the general public. Although information about sex offenders has always been public, as a practical matter, most members of the public would not have known how to access it. Though states are required to set up public registries, states can decide what information to disclose and how to disseminate the information.
Congress passed Megan’s law in response to the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a young girl by a convicted violent sexual offender who had moved in across the street from the girl. Legislators argued that if the parents had known about their neighbor’s violent sexual history, they could have taken further precautions to protect their daughter. Additionally, under Megan’s Law, the local police have the right to notify the community if, in their discretion, the sex offender presents a danger.
How Does Megan's Law Affect Me?
Due to Megan's law, the public can now access the sex offender registry for their state. In addition, the law makes it so that the community can be notified by the police if the police thinks that a sex offender, who has moved into the area, presents a danger to the community.
As Megan's law is a federal law, it does not really affect sex offenders directly, other than the requirement that they register. It is up to the individual states to decide what convictions require registration, what information should be made public, and how that information is shown to the public.
Do I Need an Attorney?
If you have been convicted of a sexual offense and wish to remove yourself from the registry or seal your records, you should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Depending on what state you are in and how long it has been since you have served your time, you might be able to get your information removed from the public registry. An attorney can also help you get your criminal record sealed, also known as expungement, making it so that no one other than the police will be able to see your past criminal history.