The landmark Pennsylvania law that for nearly a quarter of a century has required a public registry of sex offenders and community notification about their whereabouts is facing a life-or-death challenge before the state’s highest court.
Enacted nearly 25 years ago, Megan’s Law was hailed as a pivotal step toward making communities safer by empowering the public with information about where sex offenders live. Now, five separate cases before the state Supreme Court are attacking it as outdated, discriminatory, and unnecessarily cruel, depriving thousands of people of their fundamental rights.
The cases challenge nearly every aspect of the law, which has undergone several incarnations since being signed in 1995, one year after the death of 7-year-old Megan Kanka. The New Jersey girl was raped and killed by a neighbor who, unbeknownst to her family, was a twice-convicted pedophile. Similar laws were adopted across the United States and at the federal level.
Prosecutors believe the pending cases could gut Pennsylvania’s law, allowing sexually violent predators to evade detection and endangering public safety. They also warn that the law’s best-known aspect — the website that lists the thousands of offenders in the state — could be watered down or dismantled. In the last year alone, the website received 411 million page views, state records show.