’s Law Essay, Research Paper
What is the best way to deal with people who prey on our children? Should we send them away forever or should we brand them sex offenders for the rest of their lives. Do the sex offenders have rights? The government feels that the best way to deal with this type of criminal is to brand them. Megan’s Law or Registration of sex offender law was created so that people would be able to protect themselves and their children from such people. Sex offenders, supposedly, are chemically unbalanced and are unable to control themselves. Therefore, a high rates of recidivism. So in an effort to “control” them we have a registration program. But maybe we have gone too far. Do these “monsters” have rights? Is it okay to punish them again for the second time?
Megan’s law is a program to register sex offenders. In New Jersey Statutes Annotated Megan’s law is defined as a person who has been convicted, adjudicated delinquent or found not guilty by reason of insanity for commission of a sex offense, will register. A person who fails to register as required under this act will be found guilty of a crime in the forth degree. The law goes on to explain who registers with whom. It also says who is allowed to see the list of the registered sex offenders. There are several tiers that are involved. These were created when the law was first placed on the books in New Jersey. The first tier is the person who committed 3rd degree sex crime; those people are to notify only the police. Those who committed a 2nd degree sex crime are to notify the police and community leaders. Finally those who commit at 1st degree sex crime have to notify all those in the community.
As of now all fifty states have a law similar to Megan’s law on their books. When a person is convicted and/or released from prison on a sex crime offense they must register with the community they wish to live in. With whom they need to notify depends on the state with which they live. Some states have the sex offender notify the police of they’re where abouts, and some tell the entire community.
The purpose of this law is to protect the communities around the nation for dangerous sex criminals. The object is to register person(s) as sex offenders to keep track of their location. It is like a life time on parole.
Megan’s Law or registration of sex offenders is a program created out of crisis and horror. On July 29, 1994 in Hamilton Township, New Jersey Megan Kanka was murdered. In Megan’s neighborhood lived a sex offender named Jesse Timmendequas. He lived across the street from Megan. On this day Megan was heading home and right before she made it to her front door Timmendequas invited her into his house. He asked her if she wanted to see his puppy. He led her to an upstairs bedroom and strangled her unconscious with his belt. He raped her and the suffocated her with a plastic bag. When he was done, he put her in a tool box and dumped her in a local park. After this occurred, exactly three months on October 31, 1994, the governor of New Jersey passed Megan’s law. It has been challenged by some a sex offender in the case Artway v New Jersey. Artway argued that his constitutional rights had been violated. He felt that this law was Ex Post Facto, after the fact. He also said that it was cruel and unusual punishment, double jeopardy, and violated his right to privacy. In that decision the notification was ruled to be unconstitutional. But the act itself of registration was constitutional.
When one starts to look into this law not much, is written. What can be found are many articles saying what the critics think will happen. Things that are discussed are the Ex Post Facto law, and the constitutionality. The fact is this law will work. When put into place it will keep sex offenders away from children and keep them out of your neighborhood. The problem is that the outcome is not really understood. Some sex offenders have been committing suicide because of the Scarlet Letter attitude that we are taking with this law. Some sex offenders have been murdered by vigilantes in the communities that did not want them there. The articles seem to be in agreement this law reduces recidivism. What they seem to not be touching upon at all is the cost. By my own analysis the program does not seem to be very expensive. What is the most talked about are the rights of the offender and if this is not constitutional.
There are many reasons why we have a law like Megan’s Law. To protect our children, to protect our community, and to protect ourselves. As for sex offenders there are a very high level of recidivism among child sex offenders. Some experts seem to believe that sex offenders are chemically out of control. That they need medicine to control their urges to commit sex crimes. Some way that the medical community is dealing with this problem is chemically castrating the sex offenders. This is where the offender is injected with a chemical that makes the penis unuseable. The experts are still unsure of what is the best way to deal with sex offenders. Because there is no real way to “control” sex offenders we need to know where they are. The children of our communities need to be protected.
There are no cases or rulings that support this law. There is a similar law in Washington State that has been there before Megan’s Law came about. This law is still in effect. The fact that all fifty states have placed this law of some sort on their books must say something. When these persons can be watched over and “controlled” then and only then can we feel safe in our communities and cities.
From the start Megan’s law have had many problems. The way that New Jersey first created the law, it seemed to violate Ex Post Facto, cruel and unusual punishment, double jeopardy, right to privacy laws. All of these charges were brought in Artway V. Attorney General of New Jersey, et al.
Ex Post Facto is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary as “a law passed after the occurrence of a fact or commission of an act, which retrospectively changes the legal consequences or relations of such fact or deed.” For those who committed a sex crime before this law went into effect were not aware of this punishment, therefore this law in not constitutional. Because they are not aware, they could not have considered the consequences of this punishment.
And Megan’s Law is a punishment, very much like the way a scarlet letter was placed on an adultery in olden times. This is just a modern twist. Everyone knows that a sex crime is a horrible offense. We just need another way to deal with it. This is a way of punishing the offender twice. Under the double jeopardy law it prohibits governments from punishing for a second time for the same offense. This is what Megan’s law does, not only do you need to go to jail but you also need to be monitored for the rest of your life.
Every American citizen sees it their right to be left alone and have some sense of privacy. This is a right that we as Americans have. There is no law per se that states it but in decisions made by the supreme court it has been defined. Cases like Roe V. Wade, Griswold V. Connecticut, and Paul V. Davis. These cases were steps in getting government out of our homes and personal life. Whose right is it to know what mistake you might have made ten years ago.
Cruel and unusual punishments are addressed in the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. When this was created, its intent was to prevent from torture. But in later supreme court decisions it was made available for instances as this. Megan’s Law can be seen as punishment like I stated before about being marked like a scarlet letter.
In all, if taken to court most believe that Megan’s Law will not hold up constitutionally.
If it were up to me, I would have to say that I strongly disagree with this law. I have a special place in my heart for Megan Kanka. When she was murdered, I was a senior in high school two towns away from her home. One of my very good friends lived on her street. When this occurred everyone was appalled and scared. Because of their fears and shock, they made Megan into an issue. Her face was plastered on every paper in New Jersey. The public wanted something done. The republicans decided that this law was the best idea. In three short months some people’s rights were revoked. I do not side with the sex offenders, but I do not agree with the approach. When we start taking some peoples rights away, we are no longer free. There are some times freedom does’ not work they way everyone wants it to. Megan’s mother went all over telling her daughter’s story and the country was in shock.
The only reason I see that this law has not been shot down is that no one wants to be siding with sex offenders. As far as my research has shown only this one case Artway V. Attorney General of New Jersey, et al is the only one that has made some real decision. The judge never commented on the registration policy just the notification policy. He felt that not everyone in the community needs to know of these peoples backgrounds. Now here in Connecticut they tell everyone. There is a web site where one can find out if your neighbor is a sex offender 20 years ago. There is just some thing wrong with that.
As for any modifications, I really am not sure if there can be any. This law in all is wrong. I think we just need a better judicial system. If we were not releasing these people while they are still sick, they should not be re offending. Maybe longer stays in jail, maybe chemically control their urges. I have not found a better way, but this way is against the law.
1.New Jersey Statutes Annotated, Title 2C:7-2,7-3,7-4, p275-289, West Publishing Co. St.Paul, Minn.
2.Alexander A. Artway V. The Attorney General of New Jersey et al, 876 Federal Supplement, p 666, U.S.D.N.J.
3.”Constitutional Law-Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto Clauses – Third Circuit Holds That Notification Requirement of Megan’s Law Does Not Constitute Punishment. – E.B. v. Verniero,119 F.3d 1077 (3d Cir 1197).” Harvard Law Review (1998), v.111,n5, March, p1353-1358.
4.Castellano, Maureen. “Judge: Megan’s law unfairly brands sex offenders.” New Jersey law Journal (1995), v139, n10, March 6, p7, col 1.
5.Bleemer, Russ. “Court system wrestles with Megan’s Law fallout.” New Jersey Law Journal (1995),v141, n9, August 28, p3, col 1.
6.Aaseltine, Peter. “Megan’s Law upheld, with Limitations.” Trenton Times, 23 February, 1995: A1: 1-6.
7.Mader Anthony. “Megan’s Law.” Trenton Times, 18 May, 1996.
8.Decter, Midge. “Megan’s Law & The New York Times’.” The New York Times, Commentary, October 1994, Vol.98, Issue 4, p61.2p