California’s Megan’s Law is a law that allows the public access to information on registered sex offenders via the internet. For more than 50 years, offenders have been required to register with their local law enforcement agencies. The law, which was implemented in 2004, makes this information more easily accessible (as easy as an online search on your computer).
The California database contains more than 77,000 offenders. However, not every sex offender in California will appear on the California Megan's Law website, as approximately 25% of registered offenders are excluded from public disclosure by law. Each state in the United States has some form of Megan’s Law in place, including Florida and New York.
The Intention of Megan’s Law
The intention is to arm local communities and parents with information through which they can protect themselves and their children from rapists, child molesters, and other sex offenders. The intention is not to punish the offenders by "outing" them but to give people in the community some control and peace of mind by providing them with valuable information through an instant channel. Users of the database are not to use it to harass or commit harm against the sex offender(s).
The list includes perpetrators of sexual battery, rape, assault to commit rape, kidnapping, murder, aggravated sexual assault, sodomy, incest, lewd and lascivious acts on children and minors, acts of indecent exposure, sexual exploitation, soliciting, and so on.
How to Use the Registry Online
- Start on the Megan’s Law disclaimer page, read the statement, check the box if you agree, and hit "enter."
- You now have the option to search by name, address, city, zip code, county, or near you. Select one and when applicable, type in the requested search criteria.
- You may then click on: "Show Map" or "Show List."
- If you choose "Show Map," you will see a map with pins placed on it that either identify a single sex offender in the area or a region with more than one offender.
- If you choose "Show List," you will see a page listing sex offenders in the area with names, photos, and addresses of the offenders.
- Red exclamation marks beside names indicate that the person is in violation of his or her registration requirements.
- You may click on an individual listing to see more information on the registrant.
- Each file on every sex offender contains information about the registrant’s physical description, location, known aliases, offenses, risk assessment, and scars/marks/tattoos.
- If you have relevant information on any of the registrants, you can contact your local law enforcement agency.
The information available on these sex offenders includes:
- Date of birth
- Eye color
- Hair color
- Offense description
- Scars, markings, or tattoos on the registrant
- Known aliases of the offender
Arguments in favor of California's sex offender databases include:
- Notification can reduce the odds of being sexually assaulted.
- Law could scare sex offenders from committing another act again.
- Awareness is the greatest tool parents have for protecting their children.
Arguments against it include:
- The most effective crime prevention strategy is re-integration into society.
- It is unethical and unconstitutional.
- Some sex offenders may never stop committing crimes, but some will.
- There's a question as to whether the law and information really do help achieve security.
- Even if neighbors know of an offender, he or she can still offend in another town or state.