Megan's Law: Analysis on Whether It Is Constitutional To Notify The Public Of Sex Offenders Via The Internet


Susan Oakes


VOL. XVII • Summer 1999 • NO. 4 (table of contents)

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Because of the public demand for stronger governmental action against those who commit violent and sexual offenses against children, Congress implemented "Megan's Law" which mandated that the registered information of criminal child sex offenders be unlimited in disclosure so long as the information released is necessary to protect the public. Megan's Law and the Internet (as useful medium for communicating information on sex offenders), fulfill a similar goal as criminal cases receiving media attention because both aid in protecting the public from potential crimes committed by dangerous sex offenders.

Megan's Law is constitutional because it is not punitive and because it furthers governmental interests. It does not violate the Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto Clauses because community notification is not punishment. The Internet is an acceptable medium to use in releasing information about sex offender to the public. However, Congress must do regulation of the Internet or a Commerce Clause violation will result.

To date, Congress has not restricted the medium used to achieve the goals of Megan's law. The only federal cases to address the constitutionality of notification and the Internet determined that the state notification statute is constitutional and publishing the names of sex offenders via the Internet is constitutional, provided that public access is limited to those who may potentially encounter the sex offender. This limitation to access is present in the text of Megan's Law. Therefore, Megan's Law is constitutional and using the Internet is an acceptable medium of communication to accomplish this goal.

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