The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (more commonly referred to as “SORNA”) is a federally-enacted statute which comprises Title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-248). This important legislation provides a comprehensive set of minimum standards for sex offender registration and notification in the United States.
SORNA applies to all fifty states, the principal United States territories, and federally recognized tribes. The Act seeks to achieve some level of uniformity as to the type of sex offender that must register, the length of time that offender must be register, and the type of information about the offender that must be maintained in a registry database. SORNA aims to close potential gaps and loopholes that existed under prior laws and generally strengthens the nationwide network of sex offender registration and notification programs.
Under SORNA, sex offenders must register and keep their registration current in each jurisdiction in which they reside, work, or go to school. Sex offenders must also make periodic in-person appearances to verify and update their registration information. All registered sex offenders must renew their registration within three days of moving, attending a new school, or getting a new job.
There are three types of offenses that require registration under SORNA:
-Sexual Act and Sexual Conduct Offenses
-Certain Crimes Against Minors
-Certain Enumerated Federal Crimes
Sexual act or sexual conduct offenses are criminal offenses that have an element involving a sexual act or sexual contact. The offenses covered include all sexual offenses whose elements involve either unwanted bodily penetration or any sexual touching of or contact with a person’s body, either directly or through the victim’s clothing.
Offenders must register under SORNA upon conviction for any of the following crimes committed against a teenager or child: non-parental kidnapping; non-parental false imprisonment; solicitation of a minor to engage in sexual conduct; use of a minor in a sexual performance; solicitation of a minor to practice prostitution; video voyeurism; possession, production, or distribution of child pornography, criminal sexual conduct involving a minor, use of the internet to facilitate criminal sexual conduct involving a minor, and any other conduct that is by its nature a sex offense against a minor.
Certain federal offenses also require registration. These include sex trafficking of children; various types of sexual abuse; sex crimes that result in the victim’s death; sexual exploitation of children; buying or selling children; production, possession, or distribution of child pornography or material containing the sexual exploitation of children; producing child pornography outside of the United States for distribution inside of the United States; knowingly using a misleading domain names, words, or digital images on the Internet with the intent to deceive a minor into viewing material that is harmful to minors; coercion, enticement, or transportation of a minor for the purposes of illegal sexual conduct; travelling interstate to engage in illegal sexual conduct with a minor; and transmitting information about a minor to further illegal sexual conduct.
SORNA divides sex offenders into three, different “Tiers” or categories depending upon the severity of the perpetrator’s offense. Tier I sex offenders must remain registered for fifteen years, and they must renew their registration every year. Tier II sex offenders must remain actively registered for twenty-five years, and must renew their registration every six months. Tier III sex offenders, those perpetrators who have committed the most serious crimes, must remain registered for their entire lives and must update their registration every three months.
It is important to remember that the registration requirements outlined in SORNA are a bare minimum. Tribes and states are free to impose stricter requirements for registration.
Failure to register as a sex offender under SORNA is a federal crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years of incarceration. Indian sex offenders who fail to register in Indian Country may also be criminally punished and incarcerated under tribal statutes.
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*National Tribal Trial College is a project of the Southwest Center for Law and Policy (www.swclap.org) This project is supported by Grant No. 2017-SA-AX-K001, awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.