Is Megan’s Law Fair and Effective?

In 1994, registered sex offender Jesse K. Timmendequas raped and murdered seven-year-old Megan Kanka of New Jersey, who lived across the street from her. A month after her murder, the New Jersey General Assembly passed several bills that would create a sex offender registry. This database would notify a community of registered sex offenders who move into the neighborhood. “Megan’s Law” is now a federal requirement for states across the country. Today, however, many lawmakers and citizens call the fairness and effectiveness of the federal law into question.


There are currently about 28,868 people listed as registered sex offenders in Georgia alone. In accordance with Megan’s Law and other federal regulations, the information of all of these people is available to the public. Information includes each person’s full name, home address, and photograph. In most states, including Georgia, registration in the public sex offender database is for life, regardless of the circumstances of the conviction. The registry punishes convicted sexual offenders and protects children and others from terrible fates like Megan Kanka’s. Unfortunately, Megan’s Law may not be entirely fair.

Of the hundreds of thousands of registered sex offenders in the United States, it’s impossible to tell how many still deserve the title. It doesn’t take as heinous of a crime as Timmendequas’ for the courts to convict a person. Many registered sex offenders were guilty of much smaller and less dangerous crimes. In some states, for example, a minor taking nude photos of him/herself could face child pornography charges. In other states, peeing in public, flashing body parts, and having consensual sex can land you on the registered sex offender list.

At least 29 states, including Georgia, list teenagers who have consensual sex with one another as sex offenders. One woman, Wendy Whitaker, fought Georgia’s flawed sex offender laws for more than 10 years to have her name removed from the registry. The courts forced her to list herself as a registered sex offender for having consensual sex with a 15 year old when she was 17. This case, and hundreds of others like it, make many people question the fairness of Megan’s Law.

For more on this topic, check out our blog post on 10 shocking things that could make you register as a sex offender.


More than 20 years after the enactment of Megan’s Law, criminologists wonder if the public sex offender database is truly as effective as lawmakers had hoped. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, almost half of sexual abusers are family members or extended family. Yet Megan’s Law focuses on preventing incidents of strangers stalking playgrounds and schools. Many argue that Megan’s Law is ineffective at preventing the majority of sexual abuse cases, which happen in the home of a friend, relative, or neighbor.

Another argument is that Megan’s Law is only effective at helping to prevent repeat offenses, not the initial criminal act. This presents a concern for the amount of statutes in place to help prevent crime the first time around. Many sex offenders are not guilty of recidivism, or relapses of criminal behaviors. Thus, Megan’s Law may not have any effect on the actual number of sex crimes involving young children. Others say that law enforcement needs to do a better job of working with the state to ensure registries are accurate and up to date. Some citizens may think Megan’s Law protects them from sex offenders moving in next door when really it really doesn’t.

Those who fought for Megan’s Law had good intentions, and their work may help prevent sex crimes from repeat offenders living in one’s neighborhood. As lawmakers and criminologists continue to investigate the fairness and effectiveness of Megan’s Law in Georgia and around the country, stay on the lookout for updates and amendments to sex offender registry statutes in your area.

If you have been unfairly required to be listed in the registry, contact Savannah sex crimes lawyer, Jarret Maillet, today and schedule a free consultation.