Consistent sex-offender laws

Funds at risk: Maryland needs to tighten lifetime registration statute to meet federal requirements.

November 07, 2001

SEX-OFFENDER registration laws have been endorsed across the nation since the 1994 rape-murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka by a convicted offender living in her New Jersey neighborhood.

The Justice Department requires registration of these criminals to be consistent in all states, withholding grant money from states that don't comply with the federal Megan's Law.

Maryland risks the loss of $1 million in crime prevention funds for noncompliance. It seeks a waiver until the 2002 General Assembly to correct the matter.

The problem is that Maryland and a dozen other states have known for several years that their laws were deficient. The National Criminal Justice Association has been working with them on fixes.

So it's puzzling to hear Maryland anti-crime officials alternately contend that the state is already in compliance, and that the administration failed to get the legislature to pass the necessary amendments last session.

The General Assembly did approve a bill to put the state's entire sex-offender registry on the Internet. No reluctance there.

The federal government says Maryland's requirement for lifetime registration of two-time offenders needs to count any convictions before 1995 and any convictions in other states.

Maryland requires a 10-year registration of name and address with local authorities for first-time sexual offenders, lifetime registration for two-time offenders.

Next year, federal standards tighten further. Offenders who work or attend school in another state must register with both home and visiting states.

Any sex offender should be on Maryland's list until 2006, regardless of federal discrepancies, state officials point out. But clear consistency of all states is essential for this law to effectively alert communities to the presence of predators.

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