Megan's Law Sign at the limits of Wapello, Iowa; sex offender-free districts appeared as a result of Megan's Law. 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, which was created in response to the murder of Megan Kanka. Individual states decide what information will be made available and how it should be disseminated. Commonly included information is 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.
At the federal level, Megan's Law is known as the Sexual Offender (Jacob Wetterling) Act of 1994, and requires persons convicted of sex crimes against children to notify local law enforcement of any change of address or employment after release from custody (prison or psychiatric facility). The notification requirement may be imposed for a fixed period of time - usually at least ten years - or permanently.
Some states may legislate registration for all sex crimes, even if no minors were involved. It is a felony in most jurisdictions to fail to register or fail to update information.
Megan's Law provides two major information services to the public: sex offender registration and community notification. The details of what is provided as part of sex offender registration and how community notification is handled vary from state to state, and in some states the required registration information and community notification protocols have changed many times since Megan's Law was passed. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act supplements Megan's Law with new registration requirements and a three-tier system for classifying sex offenders according to their risk to the community.
New JerseyPaul Kramer was the sponsor in 1994 in the New Jersey General Assembly of a package of seven bills known as Megan's Law that were approved one month after the rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka by Jesse Timmendequas, a sex offender who had been previously convicted of sex crimes and had lived across the street from Kanka together with two other sex offenders. He had killed Megan Kanka after luring her into his house under the pretext of showing her his new puppy.
The bills would require sex offender registration, with a database tracked by the state, community notification of registered sex offenders moving into a neighborhood and life in prison without a chance of parole for those convicted of a second sexual assault. Kramer expressed incredulity at the controversy created by the bills, saying that "Megan Kanka would be alive today" if the bills he proposed had been law.Study of effectiveness
A December 2008 study of the law in New Jersey concluded that it had no effect on community tenure (i.e., time to first re-arrest), showed no demonstrable effect in reducing sexual re-offenses, had no effect on the type of sexual re-offense or first time sexual offense (still largely child molestation), and had no effect on reducing the number of victims of sexual offenses. The authors felt that given the lack of demonstrated effect of the law on sexual offenses, its growing costs may not be justifiable.Michigan
Michigan adopted Megan's law soon after its inception in New Jersey and modified it with some notable changes. Each "sex"-related offense is placed on the registry with largely vague categories of severity numbered 1 through 4. The specific details of the offense, the circumstances, and various other factors are taken into consideration when charges are brought and listed on the site along with the driver's license picture of the individual. Regardless of offense level, the individual is placed on the registry for a minimum of 25 years, up to life. Certain HYTA cases are not listed on the public version of the registry while the individuals are minors.
Michigan's law also includes registration as sex offenders for certain crimes without any sexual element, such as kidnapping and public vulgarity or indecency (swearing in public).Mixed reactions
The effectiveness of Megan's Law, the Jacob Wetterling Act and the Adam Walsh Act are constant fodder for media and politicians alike. Proponents of the above laws maintain that these laws are necessary for the control and monitoring of dangerous individuals that live among the general populace.
Opponents have called the law a "vigilante's charter", citing cases such William Elliot, one of two people located on the list and killed by the vigilante Stephen Marshall. William Elliot was on the Megan List because his girlfriend was "two weeks shy of her 16'th birthday" while Elliot himself was also a teenager. In a similar case, construction worker Garcia Oliver was charged with murder for killing Michael Dodele, saying that he had acted to protect his son, "I felt that by not taking evasive action as a father in the right direction, I might as well have taken my child to some swamp filled with alligators." In fact, Dodele was 67 years old and his accuser/victim was an older woman, not a child.
One senator has suggested that sex offenders in each jurisdiction be ordered to report to their local jail on October 31 (Halloween) of each year to protect children from being abducted during "this night of intentional identity confusion". The logistics of this have proven to be difficult to justify, as there have been no reported cases of abduction related to children visiting an offender's home on Halloween.
Michigan state representative Paul Scott issued this statement on October 14, 2011: "Although Halloween is a joyous time for many young children, it is also a time when sex offenders don't have to troll play areas or neighborhood hangouts to gain access to young people," said Scott, R-Grand Blanc. "Unsuspecting children will inevitably knock on the doors of sex offenders this Saturday, creating a potentially dangerous situation."
His comments reflect the general attitude of many politicians, legislators and law-enforcement officials across the country. Virtually all 50 states have enacted similar requirements for sex offenders on Halloween night.
"Convicted sex offenders should never be allowed to take part in the Halloween tradition," Scott said. "Michigan must take a 'lights out' approach when it comes to the homes of sex offenders to help young people stay safe during Halloween."
Considering extensive research done on true sex offense relapse rates — averaging under 9% for the entire country from 1983 to 2010 — suggest that Scott's comments are less fact and more of a personal agenda, the true scope of Megan's Law is revealed to be quite broad and open to interpretation.
Reformists have conceded that the registry and the above laws have a place, however with some modifications. The typical relapse rate statistics provided by the State of Michigan show that an average of 3.5% (years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008) of registered offenders re-offend (a reoffense is defined as committing a similar offense, missing a parole or probation meeting, or failing to re-register as is required four times a year). The other 96.5% on average, for the years stated, are classified as first time offenders with no prior felonies or "sex"-related crimes on record.
As stated above, country-wide statistics over a longer period of time echo the results provided by the State of Michigan.[
Sex offender registration Sex offender registration is a system in various states designed to allow government authorities to keep track of the residence and activities of sex offenders, including those who have completed their criminal sentences. In some jurisdictions, such as the United States registration is accompanied by notification requirements. The information in the registry is made available to the general public via a website or other means. In many jurisdictions registered sex offenders are subject to additional restrictions, including on housing. Those on parole or probation may be subject to restrictions that don't apply to other parolees or probationers. Sometimes these include (or have been proposed to include) restrictions on being in the presence of minors, living in proximity to a school or day care center, owning toys or other items of interest to minors, or using the Internet.Sex offender registration by countryAustralia
The Australian National Child Offender Register (ANCOR) is a web-based system used in all jurisdictions. Authorized police use ANCOR to monitor persons convicted of child sex offences and other specified offences once they have served their sentence. Offenders are monitored for eight years, 15 years or the remainder of their life (four years or 7½ years for juvenile offenders). On 1 March 2011, there were 12,596 registered offenders across Australia.Canada
Canada's National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) came into force on December 15, 2004, with the passing of the Sex Offender Information Registration Act (SOIR Act). The public does not have access to the registry.
Since 2001, the Province of Ontario operates its own sex offender registry concurrently with the federal registry. Unlike the federal registry which has an opt-out provision, if an offender can convince a judge they are not a threat, the Ontario registry has no such provision. As a result, individuals who have been convicted of a designated offence at any time after 2001, and relocate to Ontario, are obligated to register for a period of at least 10 years. The registration period begins on the day the ex-offender relocates to Ontario.Ireland
Under the 2001 Sexual Offenders Act, all those convicted of certain sexual offenses are obliged to notify the police within 7 days of their name and address. They must also notify the police of any changes to this information or if they intend to stay somewhere other than their registered address for more than 7 days (including if they are traveling abroad). Individuals are subject to these registration requirements for varying durations, based on a sliding scale of the severity of the sentence they received. This scale is; 5 years for those who received a suspended or non-custodial sentences, 7 years for those who received custodial sentences of 6 months or less, 10 years for those who received custodial sentences of between 6 months and 2 years and indefinitely for those who received a custodial sentence of more than 2 years.South Africa
The National Register for Sex Offenders was established in terms of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007. It records the details of anyone convicted of a sexual offence against a child or a mentally disabled person. The public does not have access to the registry; it is available to employers of people who work with children or mentally disabled people, to authorities responsible for licensing institutions that care for children or mentally disabled people, and to those responsible for approving foster care and adoptions. People listed on the register are prohibited from working with children or mentally disabled people, from managing institutions that care for children or mentally disabled people, and from being foster parents or adoptive parents.United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, the Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR) is a database of records of those required to register with the Police under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, those jailed for more than 12 months for violent offences, and unconvicted people thought to be at risk of offending. The Register can be accessed by the Police, National Probation Service and HM Prison Service personnel. It is managed by the National Policing Improvement Agency of the Home Office.United States Sign at the limits of Wapello, Iowa; sex offender-free districts appeared as a result of Megan's Law.
The Supreme Court of the United States has upheld sex offender registration laws twice, in two respects. Two challenges to state laws (in Hawaii and Missouri) have succeeded, however.
In 1947, California became the first state in the United States to have a sex offender registration program. Community notification of the release of sex offenders from incarceration did not occur until almost 50 years later. In 1994, a federal statute called the Jacob Wetterling Act required all states to pass legislation requiring sex offenders to register with state sex offender registries. Then again in 1996, based on a set of New Jersey laws called "Megan's Laws," the federal government required states to pass legislation mandating public notification of personal information for certain sex offenders. In Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe (2002) the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed this public disclosure.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act became law in 2007. This law implements new uniform requirements for sex offender registration across the states (however, these laws can differ in each state). Highlights of the law are a new national sex offender registry, standardized registration requirements for the states, and new and enhanced criminal offenses related to sex offenders. Since its enactment, the Adam Walsh Act (AWA) has come under intense grassroots scrutiny for its far-reaching scope and breadth. Even before any state adopted AWA, several sex offenders were prosecuted under its regulations. This has resulted in one life sentence for failure to register, due to the offender being homeless and unable to register a physical address.
Because of the act, all 50 states have now passed laws requiring sex offenders (especially child sex offenders) to register with police.In most states, once accused, the person accused of a sexual offense is registered by the court and if convicted, the court will register the guilty, in terms of the sentence and severity of the charge. Accordingly, the law requires offenders to report where they take up residence upon leaving prison or being convicted of any crime.
In 2006, California voters passed Proposition 83, which will enforce "lifetime monitoring of convicted sexual predators and the creation of predator free zones." This proposition was challenged the next day in federal court on grounds relating to ex post facto. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Sacramento, found that Proposition 83 did not apply retroactively. Patty Wetterling, the mother of Jacob Wetterling and a major proponent of the Jacob Wetterling Act, has openly criticized the evolution of sex offender registration and management laws in the United States since the Jacob Wetterling Act was passed, saying that the laws are often applied to too many offenses and that the severity of the laws often makes it difficult to rehabilitate offenders.
ConstitutionalityU.S. Supreme Court rulingsIn two cases docketed for argument on November 13, 2003, the sex offender registries of two states, Alaska and Connecticut, would face legal challenge. This was the first instance that the Supreme Court had to examine the implementation of sex offender registries in throughout the U.S. The ruling would let the states know how far they could go in informing citizens of perpetrators of sex crimes. The constitutionality of the registries was challenged in two ways:Ex post facto challenge
In Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe, 538 U.S. 1 (2003), the Court ruled that Connecticut's sex-offender registration statute did not violate the procedural due process of those to whom it applied, although the Court "expresses no opinion as to whether the State's law violates substantive due process principles."
Update: Reynolds V. United States Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit No. 10–6549. Argued October 3, 2011—Decided January 23, 2012 "The Act does not require pre-Act offenders to register before the Attorney General validly specifies that the Act’s registration provisions apply to them."State Court rulingsHawaii
In State v. Bani, 36 P.3d 1255 (Haw. 2001), the Hawaii State Supreme Court held that Hawaii's sex offender registration statute violated the due process clause of the Constitution of Hawaii, ruling that it deprived potential registrants of "of a protected liberty interest without due process of law." The Court reasoned that the sex offender law authorized "public notification of (the potential registrant's) status as a convicted sex offender without notice, an opportunity to be heard, or any preliminary determination of whether and to what extent (he) actually represents a danger to society."Alaska
After losing the constitutional challenge in the US Supreme Court in 2002 one of the two Doe's in the case committed suicide. The other Doe began a new challenge in the state courts. Per the ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY website: On July 25, 2008, Doe number two prevailed and the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act’s registration violated the ex post facto clause of the state's constitution and ruled that the requirement does not apply to persons who committed their crimes before the act became effective on August 10, 1994.Missouri
Many successful challenges to sex offender registration laws in the United States have been in Missouri because of a unique provision in the Missouri Constitution (Article I, Section 13) prohibiting laws "retrospective in [their] operation."
In Doe v. Phillips, 194 S.W.3d 837 (Mo. banc 2006), the Supreme Court of Missouri held that the Missouri Constitution did not allow the state to place anyone on the registry who had been convicted or pleaded guilty to a registrable offense before the sex offender registration law went into effect on January 1, 1995. and remanded the case for further consideration in light of that holding. On remand, the Jackson County Circuit Court entered an injunction ordering that the applicable individuals be removed from the published sex offender list. Defendant Colonel James Keathley appealed that order to the Missouri Court of Appeals in Kansas City, which affirmed the injunction on April 1, 2008. Keathley filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Missouri.
In response to these rulings, in 2007, several Missouri state Senators proposed an amendment to the Missouri Constitution that would exempt sex offender registration laws from bar on retrospective civil laws. The proposed amendment passed the State Senate unanimously but was not passed by the Missouri House of Representatives before the end of the 2007 legislative session. The same constitutional amendment was proposed in and passed by the Missouri Senate again in 2008, but also was not passed by the House of Representatives by the end of that year's legislative session. As a result, the decisions of the Missouri courts prohibiting the retrospective application of sex offender laws remained intact.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled on Keathley's appeal (Doe v. Phillips now styled Doe v. Keathley) on June 16, 2009. The Court held that the Missouri Constitution's provision prohibiting laws retrospective in operation no longer exempts individuals from registration if they are subject to the independent Federal obligation created under the Sexual Offenders Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 42 U.S.C. § 16913. As a result, many offenders who were previously exempt under the Court's 2006 holding in Doe v. Phillips were once again required to register.
On January 12, 2010, Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan ruled that individuals who plead guilty to a sex offense are not required to register under Federal Law and thus are not required to register in Missouri if the date of their plea was prior to the passage of the Missouri registration law.
Missouri also has a number of laws that restrict the activities of persons required to register as sex offenders, several of which have also been challenged as being retrospective in their operation. On February 19, 2008, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that a law prohibiting registered sex offenders from residing within one thousand feet of a school was retrospective in operation as applied to registered sex offenders who had resided at a location within such a distance prior to the enactment of the law. Another exception to the school-residence proximity requirement was handed down by the Court on January 12, 2010 in F.R. v. St. Charles County Sheriff's Department. In this case, F.R. was convicted prior to the enactment of the law and the Court held that, as such, he was not required to abide by the restriction. Consolidated with F.R. was State of Missouri v. Raynor, in which the Court found that Charles A. Raynor was not required to comply with R.S.Mo. § 589.426, a law restricting the activities of registered sex offenders on Halloween. It should be noted that, in both F.R. and Raynor, the ruling applies only to the named party.Adam Walsh Act (2006)Legal authority
Title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, abbreviated as SORNA, and codified under 42 U.S.C.16911 et seq., is a federal mandate requiring U.S. jurisdictions to update their sex offender registration laws to conform with federal guidelines. States that do not substantially implement SORNA face a mandatory 10% penalty in their Bureau of Justice Assistance grant under 42 U.S.C. 3750 et seq.Tiers of offenses
Crimes that are deemed sex offenses for registration purposes have been expanded under SORNA. Each state must decide which tier violations of state law belong to, depending on the following guidelines, and then enact statutes that tier each criminal offense. This is in contrast to the current method in some states, where prosecutors or the courts tier individual offenders.
Thus, an offender's tier under this scheme is based on the particular statute to which an offender plead guilty, or was convicted of. So an offender's tier is not necessarily based on the seriousness of the crime, nor does it reflect the danger or re-offense risk of the offender. However, offenses must be punishable by imprisonment for more than 1 year (i.e. a felony) to be classified higher than Tier I.
Violations of state law are tiered according to the federal offenses to which they are comparable, or more serious than. Note that for federal purposes, sexual act typically refers to sexual penetration, while sexual contact refers to a touching offense, though sexual act can include sexual contact depending on the reading of the statute.
Tier III Offenses require lifetime registration and quarterly verification, involve:sexual acts involving force or carried out under threat, 18 U.S.C. 2241(a)sexual acts with one whom the actor causes unconscious, or impairs by drugging or intoxication, 18 U.S.C. 2241(b)sexual acts with a child under the age of 12, 18 U.S.C. 2241(c)sexual acts with one whom is mentally incapable of appraising, or physically incapable of declining, or communicates unwillingness of, the sex act, 18 U.S.C. 2242sexual contact with a child under the age of 12, 18 U.S.C. 2244(c)non-parental kidnapping or false imprisonment of minors,any attempt or conspiracy to commit of any of the above, andany new offense committed by a Tier II offender.
Tier II Offenses require registration for 25 years and semiannual verification. It generally consists of nonviolent sex offenses, involving minors:sex trafficking of minors, 18 U.S.C. 1591transportation of minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, 18 U.S.C. 2423coercion and enticement (Mann Act), 18 U.S.C. 2422(b)sexual acts with minors age 12-15, 18 U.S.C. 2243(a)sexual contact with minors age 12-15, 18 U.S.C. 2244sexual offenses involving those in custody, and the actor has custodial, supervisory, or disciplinary authority, 18 U.S.C. 2243(b)offenses where minors are used in prostitution,offenses where minors are used in sexual performance,offenses involving the production or distribution of child pornography,any attempt or conspiracy to commit of any of the above, andany new offense committed by a Tier I offender.
Tier I Offenses require registration for 15 years and annual verification. This tier is for sex offenses that do not fall into the higher tiers, and includes both felonies and misdemeanors. States can include any conduct that by its nature is a sex offense, although Tier I is generally reserved for nonviolent offenses where the victim has reached the age of consent:sexual contact without permission, 18 U.S.C. 2244(b)offenses involving simple possession of child pornography,offenses involving public indecency (some states limit this to where the victim is a minor),offenses involving voyeurism, 18 U.S.C. 1801
Retroactive applicationThe required retroactive application of requirements will be defined by criteria relating to the nature of their sex offenses. For example a tier 3 sex offender who was released from imprisonment for such an offense in 1930 will still have to register for the remainder of their life. A tier 2 sex offender convicted in 1980 is already more than 25 years out from the time of release. In such cases, a jurisdiction may credit the sex offender with the time elapsed from his or her release.Application to offenses other than felony sexual offenses
Sex offender registration has been applied to crimes other than rape, child molestation, and child pornography offenses.
In Connecticut, those with state convictions for certain misdemeanors have to register, including: Public Indecency, in violation of C.G.S. § 53a-186, provided the court finds the victim was under 18; and Sexual Assault, 4th Degree, in violation of C.G.S. § 53a-73a.
In New York and various other states, crimes that society does not necessarily view as sexual in nature are also considered to be registerable sex offenses, such as kidnapping, "sexual misconduct", unlawful imprisonment, and in some cases "sexually motivated offenses" (such as assault, burglary, etc.) that are not categorized as sexual offenses unless the court determines that the offense was committed pursuant to the offender's own sexual gratification. In New York specifically, kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment are registerable offenses only if the victim is under 17 and the offender is not a parent of the victim.
In Kentucky, all sex offenders who move into the state and are required to register in their previous home states are required to register with Kentucky for life, even if they were not required to register for life in their previous residence.Public notice
In some localities, the lists of sex offenders are made available to the public: for example, through the newspapers, community notification, or the Internet. However, in other localities, the complete lists are not available to the general public but are known to the police. In the United States offenders are often classified in three categories: Level I offenders, who are at low risk to reoffend; Level II offenders, who are at moderate risk to reoffend; and Level III offenders, who are at high risk to reoffend. Information is usually accessible related to that risk (information being more accessible to the public for higher risk offenders).Additional restrictions beyond public notice
Sex offenders on parole or probation are generally subject the same restrictions as other parolees and probationers.
Sex offenders who have completed probation or parole may also be subject to restrictions above and beyond those of most felons. In some jurisdictions they cannot live within a certain distance of places children or families gather. Such places are usually schools, worship centers, and parks. It could also include public venues (stadiums), airports, apartments, malls, major retail stores, college campuses, and certain neighborhoods (unless for essential business). In some states, they may also be barred from voting after a sentence has been completed and at federal level, (like all ex-offenders) barred from owning firearms. In the United States, they are likely to be also on the TSA's No Fly List, unable to obtain tickets to flights within the U.S.
Some states have Civil Commitment laws, which allow very-high-risk sex offenders to be placed in psychiatric hospitals or forced to live under very heavy supervision after the end of their normal sentences. See also: Child Sex Offender penalties.
The State of Missouri now restricts the activities of registered sex offenders on Halloween, requiring them to avoid Halloween-related contact with children and remain at their registered home address from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., unless they are required to work that evening. Regardless of whether they are at work, offenders must extinguish all outside residential lighting and post a sign stating, "No candy or treats at this residence."
In the United Kingdom, anyone convicted of any criminal offence cannot work in the legal, medical, teaching, or nursing professions. List 99 includes people convicted of sex offences barred from working in education and social work, though it also includes people convicted of theft, fraud, corruption, assault, and drugs offences.
Facebook prohibits any convicted sex offender from using Facebook.Effectiveness and consequences
The vast majority of sexual offence victims are known to the offender, either related, or intimate to the victim, this is contrary to media depictions of stranger assaults or child molesters who kidnap children unknown to them. Thus, despite the public awareness of the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders, there has been no evidence shown that mandatory registration has made society safer.
In at least two instances, convicted sex offenders were murdered after their information was made available over the Internet.
The Human Rights Watch organization criticized these laws in a 146-page report published in 2007. and another report in 2013.Registration and homelessness
People who are registered in offender databases are usually required to notify the government when they change their place of residence. This notification requirement is problematic in cases where the registered offender is homeless.
The state of Washington is among those that have special provisions in their registration code covering homeless offenders, but not all states have such provisions. A November 2006 Maryland Court of Appeals ruling exempts homeless persons from that state's registration requirements, which has prompted a drive to compose new laws covering this contingency.
News reports in 2007 revealed that some registered sex offenders were living outside or under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami, Florida because Miami-Dade County ordinances, which are more restrictive than Florida's state laws, made it virtually impossible for them to find housing.  The colony at the causeway grew to as many as 140 registrants living there as of July 2009, but eventually became a political embarrassment and was disbanded in April 2010, with the residents moved into acceptable housing in the area.
As of 2013 Suffolk County, New York, which had imposed onerous restrictions on sex offenders exceeding those required by New York State law, was faced with a situation where 40 sex offenders were living in two cramped trailers located in isolated locations. This situation had been created by the county in 2007 as a solution to the problem of housing sex offenders.
Jessica's Law Jessica's Law is the informal name given to a 2005 Florida law, as well as laws in several other states, designed to protect potential victims and reduce a sexual offender's ability to re-offend. A version of Jessica's Law, known as the Jessica Lunsford Act, was introduced at the federal level in 2005 but was never enacted into law by Congress.
The name is also used by the media to designate all legislation and potential legislation in other states modeled after the Florida law. Forty-two states have introduced such legislation since Florida's law was passed.
The law is named after Jessica Lunsford, a young Florida girl who was sexually battered and murdered in February 2005 by John Couey, a previously convicted sex offender. Public outrage over this case spurred Florida officials to introduce this legislation. Among the key provisions of the law was classifying lewd or lascivious molestation on a person under the age of 12 as a life felony, and a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison. and lifetime electronic monitoring of adults convicted of lewd or lascivious molestation against a victim less than 12 years old. The statute also requires that if an offender is sentenced to a term of years, he or she must be given lifetime probation following the imprisonment. In Florida, another charge, capital sexual battery is defined as: A person 18 years of age or older who commits sexual battery upon, or in an attempt to commit sexual battery injures the sexual organs of, a person less than 12 years of age commits a capital felony. The charge carries a mandatory life sentence.Jessica Lunsford Act
The Jessica Lunsford Act (H.R. 1505 of the 109th Congress), was a proposed federal law in the United States — modeled after the Florida state law — which, if adopted, would have mandated more stringent tracking of released sex offenders.Bill objectives
The bill, if passed, would have greatly reduced federal grant money under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (42 U.S.C.§ 14071) and Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C.§ 3765) to any U.S. State that failed to conform its sex offender registration laws to the following:Sex offenders would have been required to wear Global Positioning System devices on their ankles for five years following their release from prison, or for life for those deemed sexual predators, to better enable law enforcement personnel to track their whereabouts. The costs of tracking and monitoring offenders would have been absorbed by each State.States would have been required to mail sex offender registration forms at least twice per year, at random times, to verify registrants' addresses. Any registrants who did not respond within 10 days would have to be considered non-compliant.
The bill was introduced by U.S. Republican Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite from Florida on April 6, 2005. It had 107 cosponsors and was referred to a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, but it was never voted upon (either by any committee or the full Congress), and it died when the 109th Congress finally adjourned.Controversy and criticism
Some controversy exists regarding how a person becomes labeled a sex offender. Most Americans believe the registry lists convicted child molesters when in actuality, some offenders listed on the Registries have been convicted of non-violent offenses, which involve no visible victim or physical contact. An example of such would include online talk with an undercover police officer posing as an underage minor. Teenagers involved in a consensual sexual relationship, known as "Romeo and Juliet" relationships, with the male or female partner considered underage in the eyes of the law, may also be listed as sex offenders on the nation's registries. However, they would not be affected by a Jessica's Law such as the one in Florida, since such laws only apply to adults who have committed offenses with victims under the age of 12. Most charged persons lack adequate funding for a legal defense to fight such charges. The result is a plea bargain, which in some states, is followed by automatic sexual-offender registration regardless of judicial discretion, such as decreed by Florida Statute 943.0436.In addition there is little or no evidence that restrictions on where sex offenders may live has any effect on reducing sexual crimes.
Registration is for 20 years to life, requiring psychological therapy with a wide range of evaluation and treatment for the sex offender. That determine the risk to re-offend, amenability for outpatient treatment and specific treatment and supervision needs, psychosexual evaluation conducted according to the guidelines of the Association for Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA). Evaluations include a review of criminal records/victim statements, a battery of psychological tests, clinical interviews (conducted over a series of appointments to help the offender overcome denial) and psycho-physiologic sexual arousal patterns involving Penile plethysmography (PPG) testing for sexual offenders that is typically used to determine the level of sexual arousal as the subject is exposed to sexually suggestive content, such as pictures, movies or audio. It has been demonstrated by most studies to be the most accurate method of identifying which sexual offenders will go on to commit sexual crimes against children, although there are clinicians who have noted this does not mean the test is appropriate for the evaluation of sexual preferences or treatment effects. The penile phallometry (PPG) is a highly controversial and invasive procedure in itself. Advocates against such legislation believe politicians have run unchecked with this issue, due to guaranteed press coverage, easy votes and the guarantee of federal funding for law enforcement with the passage of one new sex offender law annually. An overhaul of the nation's registries through the incorporation of a tier level system is advocated as a method which would allow the public to more accurately determine the risk of a registered offender living in their neighborhood while allowing law enforcement to more effectively supervise those considered truly dangerous not only to children but also to other potential victims.Constitutionality
The constitutionality of various versions of Jessica's Law are sometimes criticized by the courts; some of these challenges are attracting support from law enforcement agencies, parole boards, and mental health professionals tasked with the treatment of sexual offenders.Impact on offender's family members
Advocates for convicted sex offenders claim that the civil rights of convicted persons and their non-offending family members is forever affected, long after the punishment has ended. Internet publication of sex offenders home addresses continues to be upheld by the court in the name of public safety, although April 2006 vigilante type murders in Maine have brought new concerns of misuse of the registry and for the safety of nonoffending family members by private parties. Missouri civil rights attorney Arthur Benson currently waits decision from the Missouri Supreme Court regarding the Sex Offenders Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) Litigation, Jane Doe I, et al. v. Thomas Phillips et al. which "contends the act violates substantive due process rights and equal protection rights because it infringes on fundamental liberty rights, imposes a lifetime stigma, has no express purpose and, even if it serves a compelling interest, is not narrowly tailored or rationally related to that interest. They assert that, if the act is deemed to be criminal in nature, it violates the prohibition against ex post facto laws because it imposes an additional punishment, thereby altering the consequences for a crime for which they already have been sentenced."
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