Sexual crimes – such as sexual abuse, rape, indecent exposure, child molestation, sexual harassment and other related crimes – are particularly appalling. Sex offenders and sexual predators often commit their crimes against acquaintances, but often the victims are strangers or even family members. These criminals are much less likely to become repeat-offenders thanks to the sex offender registry – which keeps communities safer.
In some cases, sexual assaults may be facilitated through alcohol or illegal drugs such as Rohypnol, commonly known as the “date rape” drug. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Rohypnol is not approved in the United States for medical use and it causes drowsiness, amnesia, and confusion for the victim who unknowingly ingests it.
Sex Offenders Versus Sexual Predators
Once someone is convicted of a sexual crime, they are likely to be either a sex offender or sexual predator. Either way, they’ll end up on a sex offender registry. But what differentiates a sex offender from a sexual predator?
Someone designated as a sexual predator is typically convicted of a violent sex crime. For instance, that criminal may be convicted of a first-degree felony associated with sexual misconduct or two second-degree felonies associated with sexual misconduct.
Someone designated as a sex offender, however, is usually convicted of a less serious crime associated with sexual misconduct. For example, a sexual predator may be convicted of sexual battery by using force and injuring a victim under the age of 12, but a sex offender may be a criminal convicted of soliciting prostitution or indecent exposure.
Megan’s Law Was Inspired by the Need to Know about Dangerous Predators in Communities
Despite there being a sex offender registry in place, seven-year-old Megan Kanka from New Jersey died in 1994 after being raped and murdered by a registered sex offender who lived across the street. Megan’s family was not aware of the sex offender in their community, and her death inspired Megan’s Law, which was one of the first laws that required sex offenders to be in a public registry.
Megan’s Law was one of several laws Congress passed to implement sex offender and crimes against children registries. Other legislation includes:
- The Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act of 1996
- The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act Improvements Act of 1997
Other Sex Offender Registries
Federal law now requires information about sexually violent offenders to be available to the public. In addition, states offer databases of registered sex offenders and predators that the public can check to determine if a sex offender or predator is registered in their vicinity. Sex offenders and predators are required to provide their current address for the registry, and there are serious consequences for failing to register.
[Related article: Handling High-Stress Police Work: Treating Male Sex Offenders]
Similarly, sex offenders and sexual predators in Florida are required to maintain registration for the duration of their lives. The Department of Justice operates a National Sex Offender Public Website that enables users to search for sex offenders and predators, either by name or within a radius of a specific address.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement operates a similar offender or neighborhood database. This database provides a lot of information on registered sex offenders that include the offender’s:
- The charges for which the offender received a conviction
- The status of the offender (sex offender or sexual predator)
- Vehicle information
This Florida database also offers a list of local sex offenders and predators who have failed to register.
Sex Offenders: An Up-To-Date Registry Peace of Mind for Everyone
Having access to an up-to-date sex offender registry about the location of sex offenders and predators is essential for community safety. For parents with children or females who live alone, it is advantageous to know who in their community could be a potential threat in the future.
Due to the heinous nature of sex crimes, most people commonly agreed that convicts have lost their right to privacy because there have been many cases like Megan Kanka’s where a sex offender or predator committed a new sexual offense. Having knowledge of those people who are a risk to the community due to their past conduct can significantly increase community safety.