Way back in 1995, New Jersey became the first state to enact Megan’s Law, which requires that law enforcement authorities notify any community that a convicted sex offender has moved into the area. In short, it was the law that first created the sex offenders’ registry. In California you can search if a sex offender lives near your area by going to MeagansLaw.com. This website provides information on registered sex offenders pursuant to California Penal Code § 290.46 so that members of the public can better protect themselves and their families.
The History Behind Megan’s Law
The law was named in honor of Megan Kanka, a young girl who was raped and then murdered by a person who’d been previously convicted of sex crimes. The logic behind the law is that had Megan’s parents known that a dangerous sex offender was living in the area, they would have been able to take steps that would have kept their little girl safe.
Shortly after New Jersey implemented the law, the federal government took steps that required every single state enforce their own version of Megan’s Law, however it’s important to understand that each state, including California, has its own version of Megan’s Law.
California’s Take on Megan’s Law
Megan’s Law has been in effect in the State of California since 1996.
In California, Penal Code S 290.46 deals with the ins and outs of Megan’s Law. When an individual with a sex offender history is released from prison, information about them and their crime is entered into the California Sex and Arson Registry (CSAR.) This information is than passed onto local law enforcement agencies.
If a person is required to provide their information to CSAR and fails to do so in a timely manner, a judge can order them to pay a fine that doesn’t exceed $1,000 and sentence them to as much as six months in jail.
Misusing Megan’s Law
The great thing about California is that they have steps in place to deal with individuals who misuse Megan’s Law, either for their own advantage, or to unjustly diminish the quality of life of a registered sex offender. California’s law clearly states that the information provided on the CSAR can only be used to help a person protect themselves and their family from a perceived threat. It can’t be used to bully or threaten an individual who has served out their initial sentence.
No one can use the CSAR to withhold basic needs such as:
- Employment opportunities and benefits that accompany the employment opportunity
- Health and other types of insurance
- Educational opportunities
If a person is caught using the information on CASR for anything other then protecting themselves from a sex offender, they face misdemeanor charges that can include a $250 fine. The person who suffered as a result of the misuse of Megan’s Law can file civil charges against the person who misused the law and potentially collect a $25,000 settlement.