On February 8, 2016, President Obama signed International Megan’s Law after it unanimously passed in Congress. International Megan’s Law has been put into place to prevent child exploitation and other sexual crimes through advanced notification of traveling sex offenders. The law will implement new notification requirements for sex offenders as well as require unique identifying marks on sex offender’s passports.
Who is Required to Have an Identifying Mark on Their Passport under the International Megan’s Law?
The new law provides two categories of “covered” sexual offenders that will have to have this mark on their passport:
- Sex offenders convicted of a sex offense against a minor; and
- Any individual that is required to register in the sex offender registry of any jurisdiction in the National Sex Offender Registry because of an offense against a minor.
What Are the New Requirements for Sex Offenders Traveling Abroad?
Covered sex offenders must now provide to the appropriate official any information relating to their intended travel outside of the United States, including anticipated dates and all flight information, address or other contact information while outside of the U.S., purpose for travel, and any other travel-related information. The sex offender must update any changes to this information. If a sex offender knowingly fails to provide such information they shall be fined, imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both.
What Will Occur When Sex Offenders Decide to Travel Abroad?
The Angel Watch Center will be established to perform activities required by the law to gain information on sex offenders traveling abroad. The Center, not later than 48 hours before scheduled departure, will use all relevant databases, systems and sources of information to:
- Determine if individuals traveling abroad are listed on the National Sex Offender Registry
- Review lists of individuals who have provided advanced notice of international travel, and
- Provide a list of those individuals to the United States Marshals Service’s National Sex Offender Targeting Center (Targeting Center) not in the system to determine compliance with sex offender registration requirements.
When Will Advanced Notice Be Given to Destination Countries?
The Center may give relevant information to an individual’s destination country if the individual was identified as having provided advanced notice of international travel, or if after completing the Center’s activities described above, the Center receives information pertaining to a sex offender from the Targeting Center.
Additionally, the Center may immediately give relevant information to the destination country if the Center becomes aware of a sex offender traveling outside of the U.S. within 24 hours of their intended travel and simultaneously completes the Center’s activities, or if within 24 hours of intended travel, the Center has not yet received the information pertaining to the sex offender from the Targeting Center.
What is the Process for Issuing Passports to Sex Offenders?
The Secretary of State cannot issue a passport to a covered sex offender unless the passport contains a unique identifier. Further, a passport previously issued without an identifier may be revoked. The unique identifier has not been determined yet.
The Secretary of State may reissue a passport without a unique identifier if an individual reapplies for a passport and the Angel Watch Center provides written determination that the individual is no longer required to register as a covered sex offender.
What About Sex Offenders Entering Into the United States?
Upon receiving notification that an individual who has committed an offense of a sexual nature is attempting to enter the United States, the Center will immediately share all of the information on the individual with the Department of Justice and other Federal, State, and local entities as appropriate.
Under this new law, sex offenders who have committed offenses pertaining to a minor child will now be required to give notification of any intended international travel and will likely have to have a passport with a unique identifying mark. Sex offenders who already have passports should be prepared for reissuance of one with the identifying mark. This mark will alert officials that this individual has committed an offense against a child. Further, destination countries will be notified of any relevant information on the sex offender. It is important to stay up to date on the requirements and implications set forth by International Megan’s Law to avoid any unintentional violations of the new requirements.
The law is still new and right now there are more questions than answers. Interested parties should be diligent to stay informed as the implementation of this law is rolled out.