About Megan's Law

In 1994, 7-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and murdered by Jesse Timmendequas, a convicted sex offender who had been released after serving a maximum sentence. In response to this event and other sex crimes, community members successfully lobbied for the enactment of a law requiring sex offender registration and public notification that a sex offender is living and working in the community.

Since the mid-1990's, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation, collectively referred to as "Megan's Law." Underlying these laws is the belief that notifying the public of the presence of sex offenders in their community allows citizens to take protective measures against potentially dangerous sex offenders who live nearby.

Megan's Law in New Jersey

In New Jersey, sex offenders are required to register with the local police department within a specified time after they are released from prison. Registration and notification are separate steps in New Jersey but are often referred to as one process as they are in other states. Notification to the public and past victims is determined by the level of risk the offender poses. Placement in a tier is determined by a risk assessment instrument the state of New Jersey uses to estimate an offender's likelihood of committing another offense.

Offenders who represent the lowest risk are placed in tier one. They are only required to notify law enforcement officials and the victims after release. Tier two classification represents moderate risk of reoffense and requires notification of organizations, educational institutions, day care centers and summer camps. Tier three offenders are predicted to present the greatest risk to reoffend. Placement in this category generates the most legal resistance because it calls for the broadest level of notification. Under the law, a sizable portion of the community is notified through posters, pamphlets and, more recently, the Internet.

Date Created: January 22, 2009