Megan’s Law | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

Megan’s Law refers to a group of state and federal laws in the United States that require law enforcement authorities to make certain information about registered sex offenders available to the public.

The law gets its name from Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old girl from New Jersey. In 1994, Megan was tragically raped and murdered by a known sex offender who lived just across the street. The horrifying event led to widespread outrage and a demand for changes in the law.

What is Megan’s Law?

Megan’s Law came into existence as a response to this tragic event. This law requires that sex offenders register with local law enforcement. They need to provide essential personal details, such as their names and addresses. Once the authorities have this information, they must make it available to the public.

How is Information Shared?

There are multiple ways law enforcement shares this information. This could be through online registries that anyone can check. Sometimes, the community receives notifications when a registered sex offender moves into the area. Public meetings can also serve as a platform to share this crucial information.

Why is Megan’s Law Important?

The primary goal of Megan’s Law is the protection of the public, particularly children. By giving communities access to this information, the law aims to prevent sex offenders from causing harm. It empowers people to know who resides in their neighborhood, potentially posing a risk.

What Else Does Megan’s Law Include?

In addition to registering and publicizing sex offenders’ information, some variations of Megan’s Law go even further. They may include harsher penalties for certain sex crimes. They might also introduce mandatory minimum sentences for those who repeat these types of offenses.

Controversies Around Megan’s Law

Despite its good intentions, the laws have not been without controversy. Some critics argue that the law infringes on the rights of sex offenders. They believe that offenders who’ve served their time should be allowed to reintegrate into society without public shaming. They worry that the stigma attached to being a registered sex offender might hinder their rehabilitation.

On the other hand, some people think that these laws don’t do enough. They argue that more stringent measures are necessary to protect potential victims, especially children, from sex offenders.

The Impact of Megan’s Law

Regardless of the debates, there’s no denying the impact. It has changed how society deals with sex offenders post-conviction. It’s a law born out of tragedy, aiming to ensure that what happened to Megan doesn’t happen to anyone else.


These laws, while controversial, play a crucial role in the U.S. justice system. It promotes transparency about sex offenders, allowing communities to stay informed and vigilant. This vigilance, in turn, is meant to foster safety, particularly for the most vulnerable, like Megan, who this law seeks to remember and honor.

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Last Modified: 06/03/2023

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