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Ohio passed legislation in 1997 to require registration for certain sexual offenses. The legislation (House Bill 180) was patterned after the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Act and "Megan's law." Both acts were designed to apprehend career criminals who kidnapped, raped, and murdered Jacob Wetterling, Megan Kanka, and other children. Under Ohio's version of Megan's law, the courts were granted discretion to determine the risk level of an offender, and to assign him or her to one of three categories based upon the risk of re-offense. Most offenders were labeled "sexually oriented" and required to register their residence with the county sheriff once a year, and every time they moved, for a period of ten years. A change of address was required to be filed within seven days of moving to a new residence. The database was strictly used by law enforcement, and was not available to the public.
History of Sexual Offense Registration in Ohio
Megan's law was amended in 2004 to increase the number of offenses included, and to impose additional, stricter penalties. There is no evidence that either the original act, or the subsequent amendments, had any effect on sexual recidivism or initial acts of violence against children. In fact, the perceived "crime wave against children" was a media creation, with no evidence to support it: the incidence of sexual assault peaked in the early 1990's, and has been decreasing ever since.
Nevertheless, the federal government created the first national Internet database of persons who had committed sexual offenses in 2006.The Adam Walsh Act was passed in response to several heinous acts of violence against children. The federal government mandated compliance with strict rules for sexual offense registration for any offense against a minor, no matter the individual circumstances. Registration was offense-based, rather than allowing risk assessment or judicial discretion. The offense which has come to be known as "statutory rape" is automatically a "Tier II" offense requiring registration for 25 years.
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