In 1994, seven year old Megan Kanka was lured into a neighbor’s home to play with his puppy. She was never seen alive again because she was raped and strangled by this neighbor, a convicted sex offender. National outcry at this American tragedy resulted in the Megan’s Law Amendment to the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act. This Federal Act mandates that states maintain a registration system for sex offenders that allows citizens to discover sex offenders in their neighborhoods.
Registration of sex offenders has sparked widespread protest, most notably by ACLU. These protesters cite freedom of speech, due process, right to privacy, and protection from cruel and unusual punishment as reasons Megan’s Law is unconstitutional. However, legal precedents and common logic show that today’s era of technological innovation has made many aspects of life simpler. We can now order rare books online, talk to Internet doctors, and pay our bill through the personal computer. However, these advantages are not without their drawbacks. With the advent of the Internet, the personal computer has become a powerful tool in the hands of child pornographers. With a click of a button, child exploitation can be spread across state lines. Should deliberate child exploitation not be covered under Megan’s Law?
The Justice Department has released guidelines for compliance with Megan’s Law. These guidelines identify the bare minimum required of states for such compliance. Justice Department guidelines clearly say that states may include, “a broader class of sex offenders than those identified in the Jacob Wetterling Act…”. Therefore, while possession and trafficking in child pornography are not listed as offenses with required registration, states may opt to include these offenses. In accordance with this information, their inclusion is not contradictory to federal law.
Trafficking and possession of child pornography are against the law. This law extends to electronic transfer of illegal materials, as this is no different from face-to-face transfer. Such offenses constitute willful child exploitation and are no less a threat to children than the creation of such material. These offenses should be included in the registration programs because they are sexual offenses contributing to the exploitation of children.
Making transfer of child pornography on one’s personal computer illegal does not constitute violation of freedom of speech. The Bill of Rights plainly states that an individual’s rights are only valid if they do not impede other’s pursuit of life and liberty. Sexual exploitation leaves emotional scars that these children must bear for life. Infliction of such wounds is definitely infringing on the rights of a child.