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What is 'Megan's Law'?

The phrase "Megan's Law" is seen frequently in newspaper accounts of various sex crimes, but few people know exactly what the phrase means or how "Megan's Law" came into being. The phrase actually refers not to a single statute but to a series of Federal and state laws intended to place stringent controls on persons convicted of sex crimes.

Megan's Law on the federal level comprises four statutes that were passed in reaction to three widely publicized sexual assaults against children and an attempted rape, all perpetrated by previously convicted sex offenders. The statutes established a nationwide registration program for sex offenders, a data base of offenders' names and residences, and a subclass of offenders designated as sexual predators who are subject to life-time registration as sex offenders. These laws derive their shorthand name from Megan Kanka, a child who was murdered by a twice-convicted pedophile after being invited to see the man's puppy.

Pennsylvania passed its first Megan's Law in 1995. The law required the identification and registration of all sex offenders, the identification of sexual offenders who are truly predators and notification to a community when a predator moves there. The law has been amended several times to ensure that it is consistent with the federal "Megan's Law" statutes and to allow information on registered sexual offenders to be published on the internet. The last amendment in 2011 made Pennsylvania a member of the national sex offender registry. The failure of a sex offender to comply with the registration requirements is also a crime.

Any person charged with a sex crime obviously requires competent legal representation. The existence of Megan's Law and the possibility of being subject to lifetime registration as a sex offender makes legal representation even more important.

Source: Pennsylvania State Police, "Megan's Law Website"

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