Understanding Megan’s Law – Sex Offender Registration and Internet Database
California has seen many changes in sex crime laws and sex offender registration over the past decade. Those facing sex crime charges in California are subject to more penalties and pressures above and beyond a courtroom trial, prison time, or fines. Depending on the case and the consequences of the sex crime conviction, an individual may be required by Megan’s Law to register as a sex offender. California’s Megan’s Law was enacted in 1996 to allow local law enforcement agencies to inform the public about sex offender registrants found to be posing a threat to the public. As of recent years, the public has access to the location, names, and photographs of “certain” sex offenders in their community on the Internet.
Such personal and public disclosure is determined by the type of sex crime a person was required to register under. Not every registered sex offender is required to be on this Internet website. In fact, about twenty-five percent of registered sex offenders are excluded from public disclosure by law. Based on the sex crime, the information required to be disclosed on the website falls into the categories of zip code, conditional home address, and home address.
Internet Sex Offender Regulations
It is important to note that Megan’s Law is meant to protect families and children – not as an additional means to punish the sex offender. Nevertheless, it can be a devastating experience for a person to face the shame and embarrassment that comes along with registering as a sex offender and having personal information about them on the Internet, especially after fulfilling the legal prison sentence, fine, or any other appointed punishment.
In addition, it is against the law to misuse the available offender information on the Internet to harass or commit any crime against the offender. In fact, if someone uses the data on the website to commit a felony against the offender, a prison term of at least five years can ensue. If a misdemeanor is committed against the offender by using the website’s information, fines from $10,000 up to $50,000 can result. Those who are required to register as a sex offender on the Internet face fines up to $1000, imprisonment in a county jail up to six months, or both, if they fail to enter their information on the website (Pen. Code, § 290.46, (h)(2).