On or about July 27, 1994, Jesse K. Timmendequas, a registered sex offender in the state of New Jersey, lured seven-year-old Megan Nicole Kanka to his home, raped her and then killed her. He had been convicted twice before for sexually assaulting young girls before he moved in Megan’s neighborhood, but only law enforcement personnel were aware of his sex-offender status. He was convicted of murder in the New Jersey court system and sentenced to death. (In 2007 however, New Jersey repealed its death penalty, and Timmendequas’s sentence was commuted to life in prison without possibility of parole.)
The murder prompted the New Jersey legislature to enact a series of laws to help its citizens protect themselves by knowing where register sex offenders resided. These laws included a database tracked by the state of the whereabouts of registered sex offenders, and community notification of registered sex offenders moving into a neighborhood. The new laws also included a sentence of life in prison for repeat sex offenders.
Many states, including California, followed New Jersey’s lead and enacted their own form of sex offender registry laws.
California passed its own laws regarding residency notification of registered sex offenders in 1996, under Penal Code Section 290. The statute also provided for a web site to help its citizens obtain information about these sex offenders, including their residency addresses, dates of birth, and actual convictions.
The offenders themselves must register with their local law enforcement agency as soon as they are released from prison or jail. They must also update their information annually (within five days of their birthday), or as soon as there is a as a change in their residency. Homeless sex offenders must update local law enforcement agencies every 30 days.
To access the website to determine whether registered sexual offenders live in your neighborhood, go to www.meganslaw.ca.gov and follow the prompts.