The Criminal Investigation/Detective Bureau coordinates all Megan’s Law registration and investigation. This law was passed after the murder and sexual assault of a child. This happened in July 1994 in Hamilton Township in New Jersey and the law requiring persons convicted of sexual predator behaviour to be registered and the public to be notified of offender’s locations. Public notifications are dependent on threat level assessments.
As a result of Megan's death, the longstanding legal requirement prohibiting law enforcement from advising the public of serious and high-risk sex offenders living in a community was brought to national attention. On May 17, 1996, President Clinton signed the Federal "Megan's Law" (H.R. 2137) which "required the release of relevant information to protect the public from sexually violent offenders".
Versions of "Megan's Law" were passed in New Jersey and other states. In all 50 states, a paroled sex offender must register his residency with local authorities, and all but five states require some form of notification when a convicted sex offender moves into a neighborhood.
The law takes different forms in different states.
Under Megan's Law, convicted sex offenders in New Jersey are required to register with their local police department. Prosecutors review the original offense, prison record, and determine whether the offender has a job or other community ties to evaluate potential risk.
The requirement of community notification and its scope hinge upon the risk of re-offense, which, in turn, defines the "tier" or category in which the offender is placed.
The three risk categories are:
- LOW ~ No public notification required; but all law enforcement agencies likely to encounter the offender must be notified as well as the victim(s) and his/her family.
- MODERATE ~ Requires limited notification such as schools (public and private), or other places where children gather; as well as the victim(s) and his/her family. It also requires notification to organizations in the community, including religious and youth organizations likely to encounter the offender.
- MAXIMUM ~ Requires public notification, including posting information on bulletin boards at police stations, or public community gathering places. In addition members of the public likely to encounter the person registered (i.e. individuals residing within a half mile radius of the offender's domicile) should also be notified.
Equipped with the descriptions and whereabouts of high-risk sex-offenders, communities are better able to protect their children.