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High Court Upholds Megan’s Law Double-Jeopardy Protection Is Not Violated, Say Justices

The Supreme Court rejected a double-jeopardy challenge Monday to Megan’s law, the New Jersey measure that requires authorities to tell communities the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders.

Although the action does not directly affect similar laws adopted in 36 other states, it was welcomed as a major victory for proponents of such measures.

The court, without comment, turned away arguments by sex offenders that the law’s notification provisions violate their Fifth Amendment protection against being punished twice for the same crime.

“The lawsuit we fought so hard to win is over,” said New Jersey Attorney General Peter Verniero.

Community notifications began in New Jersey last month. But the issue is not finally decided.

Michael Buncher, a state public defender, said the next federal challenge to Megan’s law will contend that community notification violates personal privacy rights.

“We are claiming that the kind of information that is disseminated … is … constitutionally protected, and it should not be disseminated,” he said.

The New Jersey law, enacted in 1995, was 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.

The law calls for notice to schools and day-care centers about moderate-risk offenders. For high-risk offenders, the law requires police to go door to door, notifying neighborhood residents.

The law also requires sex offenders who have been paroled or released after completing their prison sentences to register with local authorities when moving to a community. That requirement, now the law in all 50 states, was not challenged.


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