On a warm, July evening in 1994, 7-year-old Megan Kanka was lured into a neighbor’s home in Hamilton Township, New Jersey. Unbeknownst to Megan or her parents, the neighbor was a twice-convicted child molester. The neighbor, who had told Megan he wanted to show her a puppy, ended up sexually molesting and murdering her.
As a result of Megan’s death, the long-standing legal requirement prohibiting law enforcement from advising the public of serious and high-risk offenders living in the community was brought to national attention.
On May 17, 1996, President Clinton signed the federal “Megan’s Law,” which “required the release of relevant information to protect the public from sexually violent offenders."
In September 1996, California enacted its version of Megan’s Law which provided the public with photographs and descriptive information on serious and high risk offenders residing in California who have been convicted of committing or attempting specified sex crimes as listed in the California Penal Code.
Since July of 1995, the California Department of Justice had been operating the Child Molester Identification Line, a 900-number that allowed the public to inquire whether an individual was a registered child molester. Renamed the Sex Offender Identification Line after the passage of Megan’s Law, this service now includes registered sex offenders who have committed crimes against adults as well as children.
Protecting Our Children
Megan’s Law created a registration and notification procedure to alert law enforcement, schools, community organizations and neighbors to the presence of a sex offender who authorities believe may pose a risk to the community. This information is intended to enhance public safety and awareness.
However, no law can guarantee the protection of our children. There is no substitute for common sense safety precautions, such as teaching our children whom to trust and knowing where they are at all times. We are all partners in making the law work. We have an obligation to act responsibly with the information we receive.
Access the State of California's Megan's Law database.