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International Megan’s Law Passes in the House of Representatives

Those accused of sex offenses have one more reason to seek a criminal defense attorney: if convicted of a sex offense, an individual’s ability to travel will be further hampered under the law. Megan’s Law cases already pose the threat of community registration and parole supervision for life.

The term “Megan’s Law” has become synonymous with protections instituted to protect children from alleged sex offenders. After a convicted sex offender raped and murdered a seven-year-old girl in Ohio, the federal government passed a law in 1996 requiring registration for all sex offenders. While a number of states have passed their versions of Megan’s Law, no regulations existed on an international level.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement estimates that 10,000 convicted sex offenders travel internationally each year and the Government Accountability Office reported that more than 4,500 U.S. passports were issued to offenders in 2008.

As such, International Megan’s Law (H.R. 5138) is meant to regulate the travel of registered sex offenders traveling to and from the United States, and to create a notification system for authorities here and abroad of when an offender was seeking entry to the country.

According to Congressman Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), offenders would have to contact law enforcement and notify them of their intended travel, thus allowing the International Sex Offender Travel Center to determine whether the offender poses a public safety risk. The law would also create registration guidelines at U.S. embassies for American citizens living abroad, as well as notification protocols when sex offenders seek to re-enter the country.

Offenders who do not comply with the new law could face a 10-year prison sentence.

England, New Zealand and Canada have passed similar laws in their respective jurisdictions. The U.S. version passed through the House on July 27, 2010, and must now pass through the Senate.

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