WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court Monday let stand the nation's
first "Megan's Law" that
allows for the publicizing of the names and addresses of sex offenders.
The nation's highest court refused to hear arguments that the New Jersey law
unconstitutional extra punishment on sex offenders who had served prison terms by
notifying the community they were living there. By denying a review of the case,
the Supreme Court left
intact a ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Although
the appeals court found the law constitutional, it did hold that the procedures used
to determine the level
of risk the offender posed to the community and the resulting scope of notification
The appeals court ruled the registrant must be able to challenge the classification
and notification plan
at a hearing at which the prosecutor must prove his or her case by "clear and convincing"
"The lawsuit we fought so hard to win is over," New Jersey Attorney General Peter
Vemiero said in a
statement. "Although some legal matters are still pending, the main challenge to Megan's
Law is now
All 50 states have enacted sex offender registration statutes, and 37, including New
Jersey, also provide
for community notification of the presence of such offenders.
A class action suit brought on behalf of sex offenders challenged the community
of New Jersey's Megan's Law, which requires those convicted of sex offenses prior
to Oct. 31, 1994, to
register with local authorities.
The law was enacted after the abduction, rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan
Kanka in 1994. The
man who confessed to her murder lived across the street from
the Kankas. He had twice been convicted of sexual offenses with young girls and he
his house with two men who had also been convicted of sexual crimes. Neither the police
Kankas were aware of the man's history.
The petitioners argued that the New Jersey law violated both the Double Jeopardy
and Ex Post Facto clauses of the Constitution. The Double Jeopardy clause prohibits
for the same crime and Ex Post Facto prohibits laws that change and inflict a greater
Among the petitioners' arguments was that the law
was wrongfully retroactive by forcing those convicted before the law was passed to
Under Megan's Law, the county prosecutor where the registrant lives must evaluate
information provided by the offender to determine whether he or she poses a low,
moderate or high risk
of a repeat offense. The prosecutor most also determine the appropriate scope of
notification. For example, if a
registrant is classified as Tier 2, moderate risk, the prosecutor must notify local law
agencies, community organizations, schools, summer camps, day-care centers and other
are likely to encounter the offender. If the offender
is classified as Tier 3, high risk, the prosecutor must also notify all members of the
public likely to
encounter the registrant.
The district court held that community notification did not violate Constitutional due
guarantees. It also found that it did not impose punishment and therefore
could be applied retroactively.