Update

California legislators authorized a payment of $20 million to settle legal claims made by kidnap victim Jaycee Dugard and her family.

Dugard was kidnapped in 1991 when she was 11 years old. She was held captive by convicted rapist Phillip Garrido until she was found in 2009. Although state parole officers were supposed to have been supervising Garrido since 1991, they failed to discover that Dugard was held prisoner in Garrido’s back yard.

Dugard and her two daughters fathered by Garrido claimed the California Corrections Department was negligent in failing to properly supervise Garrido. To settle these claims, and head off an even bigger lawsuit, state lawmakers authorized $20 million to be paid out to the Dugards to provide them with counseling and education.

Original Article

A new iPhone application that tracks sex offenders has been causing a controversy. Offender Locator, created by ThinAir Wireless, uses the iPhone's GPS function to track the locations of registered sex offenders living in an area.

A sex offender is someone who has committed a sex crime. What comprises a sex crime is different in each state. In most states, offenses such as sexual abuse of children, downloading child pornography, rape and statutory rape are all sex crimes. However, in some states public urination, mooning, sexting and streaking may also be designated as a sex crime.

Megan's Law and Online Registry

Megan's Law, requires convicted sexual offenders in all 50 states to register when they move into a community so their location can be tracked and monitored. State police must make that information available to the public; and real estate agents have a duty to disclose the information.

The law is named after seven-year-old Megan Kanka who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by Jesse Timmendequas, a repeat violent sexual offender. Timmendequas had recently moved into the Kankas' neighborhood, where he lived with two other convicted sex offenders. The Kanka family didn't know they were living so close to sexual offenders.

The family demanded legislative action and circulated a petition that received more than 400,000 signatures. The law was passed quickly - 89 days. Megan's home state of New Jersey passed the first so-called "Megan's Law" in 1994 and federal laws followed.

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 orders community notification when a convicted sexual criminal is released or moves near their homes. The law has been updated several times since the original bill, and different states have different procedures for making the required disclosures.

Sex Offender Web Sites

Most sex offender information is made public through several Web sites. The National/State Sex Offender Public Web site, coordinated by the Department of Justice, allows citizens to search the latest information for the identity and location of known sex offenders. Other Web sites such as Family Watchdog provides users with the address, name and picture of registered sex offenders. The sad truth is that an estimated 23 states have lost track of between 10% - 50% of their sex offenders.

Jaycee Dugard

Most recently the shocking story of Phillip Garrido has inspired people to be even more conscious of sex offenders living in their neighborhood. He is a sex-offender in California who held Jaycee Dugard in his backyard for 18 years. As a result, the new application tracking sexual offenders has been gaining popularity and has become one of the most popular applications on the iPhone.

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Tagged as: Criminal Law, offender registry, iphone app