What Is the History of Megan's Law?


Quick Answer

Megan's Law is a statute that requires community notification of sex offenders. The law was first passed in New Jersey in 1994 following the rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl. The law was added to federal sex-offender legislation, the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration, in the same year.

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Full Answer

On July 29, 1994, 7-year-old Megan Nicole Kanka was raped and murdered by a neighbor in her hometown of Hamilton Township, New Jersey. The neighbor, Jesse Timmendequas, was a two-time convicted sex offender who lured Megan into his house under the guise of seeing his puppy. Timmendequas killed Kanka just 30 yards from her parents' home. They had no idea that their neighbor was a previously convicted sex offender.

The community rallied around the Kanka family and collected 400,000 signatures to petition the New Jersey State Legislature to create Megan's Law. The proposed law made it mandatory for law enforcement to notify the community of all known sex offenders and to provide information including their names, aliases, addresses and conviction records. The Legislature passed Megan's Law in 89 days.

Megan's Law was included in federal sex-offender legislation that was also passed in 1994. The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration requires law enforcement officials to create a sex-offender registry, but the Megan's Law component requires the registries to be made public for all citizens to view.

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