Megan's Law Registrants Sue California

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on November 17, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A pair of registered sex offenders have sued the state of California, claiming that the state's online offender database puts them at danger. They currently seek an injunction compelling the state to update the state's online sex offender registry information.

To buttress the claim, the plaintiff's complaint also cites four other homicides of registered sex offenders at the hands of vigilantes -- homicides the plaintiffs have called "reprisal killings."

The Complaint

The pair of registered offenders have sued California for what they calls lax management of California's online sex offender database, saying that poor maintenance of the site has led to vigilante attacks against them for crimes up to decades old. The complaint alleges that 92 percent of the profiles on California's Megan's Law site lack a date of conviction or release.

Megan's Law

Megan's Law is the informal name for both federal and state enactments that require local towns to inform the populace of the presence and location of persons who were registered sex offenders in any jurisdiction. Laws were enacted across the nation in response to the New Jersey murder of Megan Kanka, and the Federal equivalent was enacted as a subsection to the Jacob Wetterling Offender Registration Act of 1994, which only required that offenders register with local law enforcement.

Subsequently, the public was able to view relative locations of offenders in their towns on the website. In California, the website that conforms to California's version of compliance to the federal mandate includes a tool to search for offenders by name and location.

No Vigilantism Allowed

All such online databases include clear and stern warnings against would-be-vigilantes who would use the information to harass, offend, or exact public revenge. However, this warning has, in the past, not been completely effective at deterring vigilante attacks against Megan's Law registrants.

The plaintiffs in the California suit claim that they were targeted because the California website failed to include their dates of conviction and release as required by 2006 Assembly Bill 1849, which was effective in 2010. Besides attacks, plaintiffs also alleged that the information has caused other negative effects, including a denial of a lease for of a business.

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