Since Megan's Law (also called the Sexual Offender Jacob Wetterling Act of 1994) was passed, states and the federal government are required to maintain a database of people who have been convicted of sex crimes against children. Sex offenders are required to be registered in the public data access system so that government officials can keep track of where sex offenders reside -- even after the individual has completed his or her sentence. The sex offender database is public record.
A sex offender registry is a system that allows authorities and the general public to have knowledge of the residences and activity of those convicted of sexual offenses. Depending on the jurisdiction, those convicted of sexual offenses may be subject to housing restrictions and how far away they must remain from minors, schools, and daycare centers. The registry varies from state to state.
Megan's Law mandates a sex offender registration service and community notification. The details of what information is available vary from state-to-state. Most commonly, the type of information available includes the convicted offender's name, address, incarceration date, and the type of crime committed. Most often the information is available to the public via websites, but it may also be accessed through newspapers or distributed in pamphlets.
As a supplement to Megan's Law, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was passed in 2006. The act organizes sex offenders into three tiers, based on the nature of the crime. The tiers stipulate registration requirements based on the nature of the crime, with Tier 3 offenders being the most serious. Those who are in Tier 3 must provide their whereabouts every three months and remain on the registry for life. Those on Tier 2 must report their whereabouts every six months and must remain on the registry for 25 years. Tier 1 offenders must report their whereabouts every year and remain on the registry for 15 years. If an individual fails to report his or her whereabouts on the registry, he or she is charged with a felony.