Attorney General Bill Lockyer recently unveiled the new Megan's Law Internet site, which will allow millions of Californians to use their home or library computers to obtain information about more than 63,000 registered sex offenders in the state, and learn the home addresses of the 33,500 most serious offenders.
"This important tool will help Californians better protect their families and help law enforcement keep track of offenders who have violated registration laws," Lockyer said. "With only 80,000 law enforcement officers assigned to safeguard a state of 35 million people, we depend on help from citizens to keep our communities safe."
The Internet site is available at MegansLaw.ca.gov and through the Attorney General's Web site at www.ag.ca.gov/megan. The site provides detailed information on more than 63,000 registered sex offenders, including those currently incarcerated. State law prohibits the public disclosure of information on roughly 22,000 other sex offender registrants, who are known only to law enforcement.
Information provided on the Internet site includes name, aliases, age, gender, race, physical description (including scars, marks and tattoos) and photograph (if available from local law enforcement agencies). The site also contains a description of the criminal convictions that require the individual to register as a sex offender, and the county and zip code where the individual last registered.
Viewers can search the new Web site by city, county, zip code or individual name. They also can type in the name of a park or school in a community to locate sex offenders living in the vicinity.
Importantly, the site provides home addresses for about 33,500 of the state's most serious sex offenders. These offenders include individuals convicted of committing a lewd act upon a child under the age of 14, or a sex crime that includes the element of force or fear.
Home addresses also are provided for persons convicted of two or more sex offenses in separate trials, and those designated by a court as sexually violent predators. A sexually violent predator is defined as an individual who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense against two or more victims, and who has been determined by a court as likely to further engage in sexually violent behavior because of a diagnosed mental disorder.
Additionally, viewers can find out if an individual currently is in custody, or is in violation of their registration requirement, and the date they fell out of compliance. The site also provides tips on how to protect your family and facts about sex offenses and sex offenders.
In 1947, California became the first state in the nation to require sex offenders to register with local law enforcement officials. Under the law, registrants must re-register when they move. They also must re-register annually, within five days of their birthday. Transient registrants must re-register every 60 days (that will change to every 30 days, beginning January 1, 2005), and sexually violent predators must re-register every 90 days. Megan's Law, which took effect in 1996, made available to the public information about registered sex offenders.
Prior to the Internet access, citizens could obtain Megan's Law information only at a sheriff's office or a participating police department. Lockyer has worked hard to make the information more accessible. Department of Justice (DOJ) personnel have staffed Aviewing booths@ at large county fairs and the State Fair. Other steps taken by Lockyer to make the system more effective include updating the database every 24 hours, and providing the information in 13 languages: Arabic, Armenian, Cambodian, Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
The Internet site and inclusion of home addresses for the most serious offenders was authorized by AB 488, sponsored by Lockyer and authored by Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, D-Hanford. Signed into law on September 24, 2004, the legislation required the DOJ to have an Internet site up by July 1, 2005. Lockyer's office beat that statutory deadline by more than six months.