According to a report by Fox40, two convicted sex offenders and the non-profit organization California Reform Sex Offender Laws have filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Justice alleging the department has failed to correct information on the state’s Megan’s Law website. The lawsuit alleges that the state has failed to correct information on the website or include complete information regarding the conviction date for the sexual offense and/or the release date. In some cases, incorrect information may be shown regarding the charges against the sexual offender. According to the plaintiffs, up to 92% of the sexual offender profiles contain inaccurate or incomplete information.
The state maintains the register under Megan’s Law to provide information on individuals convicted of sexual offenses in California. The lawsuit alleges that missing or inaccurate information results in vigilante attacks against individuals on the list. Both men allege they have been attacked because of the information on the Megan’s Law website. Matagora, one of the plaintiffs, was shot twice by a man who viewed his profile when Matagora opened his front door. Even though Matagora was convicted of sexual offenses over 15 years ago, the website did not include the date of his conviction or his release date.
The attorney for the plaintiffs claims that the California Department of Justice was ordered to update the Megan’s Law website by 2010, but it has not taken steps to update the website. The plaintiffs allege the state’s failure to correct the matter has led to damages such as physical assault. They allege that the only way to force the state to take action to correct information and include complete information on the sex offenders register is to file a lawsuit. According to the attorney, the updates will cost millions of dollars and require years of work. The California website for sexual offenders is MegansLaw.ca.gov.
What is Megan’s Law?
Megan’s Law is named after Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old New Jersey girl. Megan’s parents lobbied to create a law requiring sex offenders to register on a local directory accessible to the public. Megan was raped and killed by a convicted sex offender who was living across the street from the Kanka family. Her parents argued that members of the community had the right to protect their children by knowing if a convicted sex offender lived in their community. Today, all 50 states have a form of Megan’s Law that requires convicted sex offenders to register.
California required sex offenders to register with local law enforcement agencies long before Megan’s Law was passed. Individuals convicted of a sex offense were required to register with law enforcement beginning in 1947; however, the information was only available by going to the police station or calling a 900-number. California’s Megan’s Law was signed by the Governor in September 2004. Now, the public can access information found on the sex offender list online.
What Information is Included in the Sex Offender Register?
If you are required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law, the following information may be included in your online profile:
- Name and known aliases
- Last known address
- Date of birth
- Height and weight
- Eye and hair color
- The sex offense code, description of the sex crime, year of conviction, and year of release
- The state’s risk assessment
- Any scars, marks, and/or tattoos
- Your photograph
Not all sex offenders are required to register under Megan’s law. Furthermore, not all sex offenders are listed on the public database — these sex offenders are known to local law enforcement authorities.
Unfortunately, much of the information for many sex offenders is missing and/or incorrect. While people are expressly prohibited from using the list to discriminate against individuals on the list, there is no real way to monitor if people looking at the website are doing so because they live in the community or they are searching for job applicants.
Registering as a sex offender under Megan’s Law is one of the worst consequences of being convicted of a California sex crime. Even after you serve prison time, your crime will follow you for the rest of your life. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help you avoid registering on the sex offender list by developing a strong defense to the sex offense charges.
Can I Be Excluded from the Sex Offender Register List?
You may qualify for an exclusion from the online sex offender’s list. Only individuals convicted of the following sex crimes may apply for exclusion:
- Felony sexual battery by restraint
- Misdemeanor child molestation
- Any sex crime not involving penetration or oral copulation and the victim was a child, stepchild, grandchild, or sibling of the offender. The offender must have successfully completed or is completing probation.
- Felony child pornography if the victim was at least 16 years of age or older
If you are granted an exclusion from the online sex offender’s list, you must still register as a sex offender. Your information may still be accessed but not online.
Have You Been Charged with a California Sexual Offense?
If you are facing a sexual offense charge in California, you need an experienced sexual offense, criminal defense attorney. The penalties for a sexual offense conviction are severe — including the requirement to register on the Megan’s Law website for life. A sexual offense conviction has long-term consequences far beyond a prison term. A conviction can dictate where you live and the jobs you are able to obtain.
You are not guilty simply because you have been arrested on a California sexual offense charge. Call the sex crime defense attorneys of Greenberg & Greenberg as soon as possible to speak to one of our San Bernardino and Riverside sex crime defense lawyers. Contact us online or by telephone at (951) 274-0003.
Our criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience defending people charged with a California sex crime. If you are arrested or you are being investigated, invoke your right to remain silent except for asking for your attorney. It is not in your best interest to “tell your side of the story” until you have consulted with one of our experienced attorneys at Greenberg & Greenberg, APLC.