Megan's Law - Jacob Wetterling Act


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In 1989, a young boy named Jacob Wetterling was abducted in Minnesota. Despite all search efforts, neither Jacob nor his abductor was ever found. The Jacob Wetterling Foundation was created in his name by Jacob’s parents, Jerry and Patty Wetterling. The Jacob Wetterling Foundation and other child safety groups advocated for better children’s safety laws. In 1994, the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act (also known as simply the Jacob Wetterling Act) was passed. This law is continually being updated and amended and was most notably amended in 1996 by the passage of Megan’s Law signed by President Bill Clinton.

In 1994, Megan Kanka was brutally raped and murdered by a neighbor who also happened to be a convicted sexual offender. Megan’s death rallied parents and child advocacy groups across the nation and prompted the legislation that requires community notification of sexual offender information. Megan’s Law is essentially divided into two basic sections: sex offender registration and community notification. Under the Jacob Wetterling Act sexual offender registration was required but Megan’s Law further requires each State to then make private and personal offender information available to the public. Each state’s implementation of Megan’s Law is different; therefore each State’s criteria for disclosure and methods are all different. Convicted sexual offenders have a high risk of re-offending after release from jail, that’s why Megan’s law requires every state to develop and implement a system for notifying the public when a convicted sexual offender moves into a neighborhood.

Megan’s Law balances privacy issues versus the right of the public to have access to certain information and essentially asserts that the privacy interests of convicted sexual offenders do NOT outweigh the government’s interest in public safety. This law basically allows the release of certain information about convicted sexual offenders such as their address and their offense. This in turn allows the creation of maps that display the whereabouts of convicted sexual offenders even after their release from jail. Parents now have access to information that can assist them in making decisions about residence locations or daycare arrangements.




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