Supreme Court Asked to Uphold Megan's Laws. (Sex Offenders in Connecticut, Alaska)

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this fall in cases that challenged the constitutionality of Megan's Laws in Connecticut and Alaska.

The states are asking the high court to uphold the laws, named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl who was raped and murdered by a twice-convicted sex offender. The laws in general require convicted sex offenders to register with local police. Their names and addresses are made public, sometimes on the Internet.

Attorneys for the sex abusers involved in the appealed cases argued that this publicity constitutes a stigmatizing additional punishment. Defenders of the laws, which are present in some form in all 50 states, argued for the primacy of a community's right to protect its children against pedophiles who they contend, are highly likely to repeat their offenses.

The Supreme Court ruling in these cases, expected by next summer, is likely to affect similar Megan's Laws in many other states.

In the Connecticut case, the state asked the high court to reverse a lower federal court ruling that found Megan's Law to be in violation of the constitutional right to due process. A convicted sex offender had argued successfully that by failing to provide a court hearing to assess whether he is still dangerous before labeling him so on a publicly accessible Web site, the state violated his right to due process of the law.

At such hearings, the offenders can attempt to establish that they have undergone rehabilitation and therefore should not be listed with offenders who have not undergone rehabilitation. Attorneys for the offenders also argued that the registry fails to distinguish violent offenders from lesser offenders, such as a teenager having consensual sex with an underaged girl friend.

In the oral arguments, Connecticut and Alaska both argued that the information on the Web site is factual, and the public has a right to know it. …

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