Questions raised over federal sex offender law – Part 1

Last week was the deadline for U.S. states and territories to be in compliance with the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. The overall purpose of the federal law is the development of a national standard to keep track of those who have committed sex crimes. States were given five years to be in compliance with the law or face a 10 percent deduction in federal justice funding. So far, only 14 states are substantially in compliance with a portion of the law called the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). The federal registration system has brought up questions on the effectiveness of rehabilitation and punishment.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act is named after the six-year-old son of John Walsh, the victim advocate and host of America’s Most Wanted. The SORNA portion of the law has bolstered state sex crime registries by broadening the types of crimes eligible for registration and extending the registration time period for specific adult and juvenile offenses.

The federal registry rules have increased the number of people on sex crime registries by as much as 500 percent in some states. Controversial aspects of the federal registration law include registration for offenders who have already served their registration time period and registration of some juveniles who were formerly shielded from registration for rehabilitative reasons.

Critics of the new federal sex offender registration law say the system puts too many offenders on the list and overloads the resources of law enforcement. The federal registration system registers an offender based on the offense they committed rather than registering people based on risk. Because of the new system of registration, the number of offenders on Wyoming’s registry increased from 125 to 1,450.

Critics of the sex offender registry argue that just because someone is in compliance does not mean the person will not reoffend and therefore the system can create a false sense of security. Some law enforcement officials believe they spend too much time registering those who want to rehabilitate but do not have enough time to reach offenders out of compliance. Next time we will continue to explore the issue.

Source:, “Five years later, states struggle to comply with federal sex offender law,” Emanuella Grinberg, 7/28/11

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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