Sex offender law fails to serve its purpose

The crackdown on possible repeat sex offenders started with a New Jersey-born law that requires those convicted of such crimes to register with local authorities. Megan’s Law, adopted in 48 states, allows establishing statutes and tracking systems at a local level. Today, different expansions and challenges to the law are taking place in the United States. When implementing the law into state statutes, authors must keep in mind the core intentions of Megan’s Law. Only then can the balance of protecting the public and a person’s privacy rights be achieved.
A week ago today, a bill came into Delaware law that obligates convicted sex offenders to have a “Y” denotation on the back of their driver’s licenses. Proponents said the law protected people in states other than Delaware since those convicted already have to register with their local authorities. The bill’s inception came after a convicted sex offender was released from a Delaware prison and committed another sex offense in North Carolina. The bill’s supporters said the incident could have been avoided if North Carolina law enforcement officials had knowledge of his past conviction.
Today in California, the Senate Judiciary Committee will have its first hearing on a proposed bill that would require real estate agents to disclose information about registered sex offenders. Law authorities would have to provide realtors with documents of the convicted crime. Realtors would then include the information on their real estate transactions. The Association of Realtors backs the legislation, saying it will protect realtors from potential lawsuits. Sex offenders would not be able to file suit if a realtor notified local community members of a neighbor’s criminal history.
Megan’s Law, which allows names and addresses of convicted sex offenders to be made public and recorded on a national database, intends to inform neighborhoods of sex offenders living in the area. The Delaware bill doesn’t hit the mark. Megan’s Law aimed to alert neighborhoods, but never intended to impose on a person’s privacy rights if potential dangers weren’t an issue. Putting a denotation on a driver’s license does little to reveal the presence of sex offenders to the proper people. Instead, convicted sex offenders would expose their criminal history to the grocery store clerk who needs the license to approve checks or the bar bouncer who wants to make sure they are of drinking age. Such notification is far from giving prior knowledge to the people that Megan’s Law aims to educate. The driver’s license mark invades the already thin line of privacy more than it protects the public.
Although the authors of Delaware’s new law had good intentions, the California proposal does more justice in notifying the public of possible dangers. The proposed California bill is said to be a change to Megan’s Law, but it is actually a positive reinforcement. The proposal would do the job of alerting local communities. When expanding Megan’s Law into state statutes, local authors need to propose bills similar to California’s in order to track convicted sex offenders. A Delaware version would only lose focus of the law’s intentions and make little difference in protecting citizens.