Megan's Law Left Intact

The Supreme Court Monday rejected a constitutional challenge to a New Jersey law requiring authorities to tell communities the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders.

The court turned down an appeal by sex offenders and left intact the notification provisions of Megan's Law, enacted by New Jersey in 1995 and adopted by 36 other states since.

Lawyers for sex offenders had argued that the disputed provisions violate the Fifth Amendment's protection against being punished twice for the same crime because such notice, and the public reaction it generates, amounts to punishment.

The justices also turned down a counter-appeal by New Jersey over the opportunities sex offenders must get to question the risk classifications prosecutors give them, the key to how much community notice is provided.

Monday's action, taken without comment, was not a ruling and did not preclude the possibility the court might some day fully review and disapprove of such a notification measure. But survival of the prototype law against the first constitutional challenge to reach the Supreme Court is a huge legal victory for proponents of such measures.

Community notifications began in New Jersey last month.

Megan's Law is named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old girl who was raped and murdered in 1994 by a twice-convicted sex offender who lived across the street from her home. Jesse Timmendequas has been sentenced to death for the crime.

By Richard Carelli ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed