Sex offender registry

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Sex offender registry is a system in various countries designed to allow government authorities to keep track of the residence and activities of sex offenders, including those who have completed their criminal sentences. In some jurisdictions, such as the United States, registration is accompanied by residential address notification requirements. The information in the registry is made available to the general public via a website or other means. In many jurisdictions, registered sex offenders are subject to additional restrictions, including on housing. Those on parole or probation may be subject to restrictions that don't apply to other parolees or probationers. Sometimes, these include (or have been proposed to include) restrictions on being in the presence of minors, living in proximity to a school or day care center, owning toys or other items of interest to minors, or using the Internet. Sex offender registries exist in nearly all English-speaking countries, including the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. Sex offender registration does not exist outside of the Anglosphere, however. The United States is the only country with a registry that is publicly accessible; all other countries in the Anglosphere have sex offender registries only accessible by law enforcement.

Three differing systems exist in determining offenders' inclusion in the registry: risk-based, sentence-length-based, and offense-based. In risk-based systems, the offender is screened against a scientifically validated screening tool, and determination of inclusion is made according the results. In sentence-length-based systems, offenders receiving sentences exceeding some determined length are included. In offense-based systems, registration is required when a person is convicted under one of the listed offenses requiring registration.

Risk-based registries reflect the determined dangerousness of registered offenders, while sentence-length-based registries reflect the severity of the crime. Offense-based registries reflect neither the dangerousness of registrants, nor the severity of their crimes. UK, Canada, and Australia have adopted either risk-based- or sentence-length-based registry schemes. In the United States, the vast majority of the states are applying offense-based registries, leaving the actual risk level of the offender and severity of the offense uncertain. The few U.S. states applying risk-based systems are pressured by Federal Government to adopt offense-based systems in accordance with Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. Studies has shown that actuarial risk assessment instruments consistently outperform the offense-based system mandated by federal law.[1] Consequently, the effectiveness of offense-based registries have been questioned by professionals, and evidence exists suggesting that such registries are counterproductive.

Some aspects of the current sex offender legislation in the U.S. have been widely criticized by civil rights organizations Human Rights Watch[2][3] and ACLU,[4] professional organizations Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers[5][6] and Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers,[7] reformist groups Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc.,[8] Women Against Registry[9] and USA FAIR,[10] and by child safety advocate Patty Wetterling, the Chair of National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.[11][12][13][14][15][16] Virtually no studies exist finding US registries effective, prompting some researchers to call them pointless.[17]

Sex offender registries by country[edit]


The Australian National Child Offender Register (ANCOR) is a web-based system used in all jurisdictions. Authorized police use ANCOR to monitor persons convicted of child sex offences and other specified offences once they have served their sentence. Offenders are monitored for eight years, 15 years or the remainder of their life (four years or 7½ years for juvenile offenders). On 1 March 2011, there were 12,596 registered offenders across Australia.


Canada's National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) came into force on 15 December 2004, with the passing of the Sex Offender Information Registration Act (SOIR Act).[18] The public does not have access to the registry.

Since 2001, the Province of Ontario operates its own sex offender registry concurrently with the federal registry. Unlike the federal registry which has an opt-out provision if an offender can convince a judge they are not a threat, the Ontario registry has no such provision. As a result, individuals who have been convicted of a designated offence at any time after 2001, and relocate to Ontario, are obligated to register for a period of at least 10 years. The registration period begins on the day the ex-offender relocates to Ontario.[19]


Under the 2001 Sexual Offenders Act, all those convicted of certain sexual offenses are obliged to notify the police within 7 days of their name and address. They must also notify the police of any changes to this information or if they intend to stay somewhere other than their registered address for more than 7 days (including if they are traveling abroad). Individuals are subject to these registration requirements for varying durations, based on a sliding scale of the severity of the sentence they received. This scale is; 5 years for those who received a suspended or non-custodial sentences, 7 years for those who received custodial sentences of 6 months or less, 10 years for those who received custodial sentences of between 6 months and 2 years and indefinitely for those who received a custodial sentence of more than 2 years.

New Zealand[edit]

The New Zealand Government has plans to introduce a sex offenders register by the end of 2014. It will be managed by the New Zealand Police and information will be shared between the Police, Child, Youth and Family, the Department of Corrections, the Ministry of Social Development, and the Department of Building and Housing—government agencies which deal with child safety. Like the Australian and British registers, the New Zealand sex offenders register will not be accessible to the general public but only to officials with security clearance. It will also include individuals who have been granted name suppression. This proposed register has received support from both the ruling National Party and the opposition Labour Party. However political lobby group the Sensible Sentencing Trust has criticised the proposed register for its lack of public access.[20][21][22]

On 4 August 2014, the New Zealand Cabinet formally approved the establishment of a sex offenders register.[23] According to the Minister of Police and Corrections Anne Tolley, Cabinet has agreed to allocate $35.5 million over the next ten years for the technology component of the register and initial ICT work is underway as of 14 August 2014. The sex offenders' register is expected to be operational by 2016 once enabling legislation is passed and changes are made to the Corrections Act to enable information sharing.[24]

South Africa[edit]

The National Register for Sex Offenders was established in terms of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007. It records the details of anyone convicted of a sexual offence against a child or a mentally disabled person. The public does not have access to the registry; it is available to employers of people who work with children or mentally disabled people, to authorities responsible for licensing institutions that care for children or mentally disabled people, and to those responsible for approving foster care and adoptions. People listed on the register are prohibited from working with children or mentally disabled people, from managing institutions that care for children or mentally disabled people, and from being foster parents or adoptive parents.[25]

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom, the Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR) is a database of records of those required to register with the Police under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, those jailed for more than 12 months for violent offences, and unconvicted people thought to be at risk of offending. The Register can be accessed by the Police, National Probation Service and HM Prison Service personnel. It is managed by the National Policing Improvement Agency of the Home Office.

United States[edit]

Sign at the limits of Wapello, Iowa; sex offender-free districts appeared as a result of Megan's Law.

All 50 states and District of Columbia maintain sex offender registries that are open to public via sex offender registration websites, although some registered sex offenders are visible to law enforcement only. According to NCMEC, as of 2015 there were 843,260 registered sex offenders in United States.[26] According to Human Rights Watch, children as young as 9 have been placed on the registry for sexually experimenting with their peers.[3][27]

States apply differing sets of criteria dictating which offenders are required to be listed on public databases. Some states use scientific risk assessment tools to determine the future risk of the offender and exclude low-risk offenders from public database. Majority of states apply systems based on conviction offenses only, where sex offender registration is mandatory if person pleads or is found guilty of violating any of the listed offenses, regardless of nature of the offense or offender. In some states, offenders are categorized according to the tier level related to the listed offense. Duration of registration vary usually from 10 years to life depending on the state legislation and tier/risk- category. Some states exclude low tier offenders from public registries while in others, all offenders are publicly listed.[28] Usually, under strictly offense based systems sentencing judge can not use his/her discretion with respect to registration requirement and take account possible mitigating factors pertaining to individual cases.[29] Some states offer possibility to petition to be removed from the registry under certain circumstances.[28]

The Supreme Court of the United States has upheld sex offender registration laws twice, in two respects. Two challenges to state laws (in Hawaii and Missouri) have succeeded, however.

In 1947, California became the first state in the United States to have a sex offender registration program.[30] Community notification of the release of sex offenders from incarceration did not occur until almost 50 years later. In 1990, Washington State began community notification of its most dangerous sex offenders, making it the first state to ever make any sex offender information publicly available. In 1994, a federal statute called the Jacob Wetterling Act required all states to pass legislation requiring sex offenders to register with state sex offender registries. Then again in 1996, based on a set of New Jersey laws called "Megan's Laws," the federal government required states to pass legislation mandating public notification of personal information for certain sex offenders. In Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe (2002) the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed this public disclosure.[31][32]

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act became law in 2007. This law implements new uniform requirements for sex offender registration across the states (however, these laws can differ in each state). Highlights of the law are a new national sex offender registry, standardized registration requirements for the states, and new and enhanced criminal offenses related to sex offenders. Since its enactment, the Adam Walsh Act (AWA) has come under intense grassroots scrutiny[citation needed] for its far-reaching scope and breadth. Even before any state adopted AWA, several sex offenders were prosecuted under its regulations.[citation needed] This has resulted in one life sentence for failure to register, due to the offender being homeless and unable to register a physical address.[33]

Because of the act, all 50 states have now passed laws requiring sex offenders (especially child sex offenders) to register with police. Accordingly, the law requires offenders to report where they take up residence upon leaving prison or being convicted of any crime.[citation needed]

In 2006, California voters passed Proposition 83, which will enforce "lifetime monitoring of convicted sexual predators and the creation of predator free zones".[34][35] This proposition was challenged the next day in federal court on grounds relating to ex post facto. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Sacramento, found that Proposition 83 did not apply retroactively.

Patty Wetterling, the mother of Jacob Wetterling and a major proponent of the Jacob Wetterling Act, has openly criticized the evolution of sex offender registration and management laws in the United States since the Jacob Wetterling Act was passed, saying that the laws are often applied to too many offenses and that the severity of the laws often makes it difficult to rehabilitate offenders.[12]


U.S. Supreme Court rulings[edit]

In two cases docketed for argument on 13 November 2003, the sex offender registries of two states, Alaska and Connecticut, would face legal challenge. This was the first instance that the Supreme Court had to examine the implementation of sex offender registries in throughout the U.S. The ruling would let the states know how far they could go in informing citizens of perpetrators of sex crimes. The constitutionality of the registries was challenged in two ways:

Ex post facto challenge[edit]

In Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (2003), the Supreme Court upheld Alaska's sex-offender registration statute. Reasoning that sex offender registration deals with civil laws, not punishment, the Court ruled 6–3 that it is not an unconstitutional ex post facto law. Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer dissented.

in Charles v. Alaska, Supreme Court No. S-12944, Court of Appeals No. A-09623, Superior Court No. 1KE-05-00765 C O P I N I O N can be found in its entirety here:[36] No. 6897 - April 25, 2014

29 April 2014, The Alaska Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a 62-year-old Ketchikan man who had been found guilty in 2006 of failure to register as a sex offender.

In its 25 April opinion, the court writes that the original offense for which Byron Charles was convicted occurred in the 1980s, before the State of Alaska passed the Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act. That 1994 law required convicted sex offenders to register with the state, even if the offense took place before 1994.

In 2008, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in Doe v. State that the sex offender registration act cannot be applied retroactively. Charles had previously appealed his conviction on the failure to register charge, but had not argued against the retroactive clause in state law. After the court’s 2008 decision, though, Charles added that argument to his appeal.

Lower courts ruled that Charles had essentially waived his right to use that argument by not bringing it up earlier. But in its 25 April decision, the Supreme Court decided otherwise.

The court writes that "permitting Charles to be convicted of violating a criminal statute that cannot constitutionally be applied to him would result in manifest injustice."

With that in mind, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed Charles’ 2006 conviction of failure to register as a sex offender. [37]

Due process challenge[edit]

In Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe, 538 U.S. 1 (2003),[38] the Court ruled that Connecticut's sex-offender registration statute did not violate the procedural due process of those to whom it applied, although the Court "expresses no opinion as to whether the State's law violates substantive due process principles."

Update: Reynolds V. United States Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit No. 10–6549. Argued 3 October 2011 – Decided 23 January 2012 "The Act does not require pre-Act offenders to register before the Attorney General validly specifies that the Act’s registration provisions apply to them."

State Court rulings[edit]

After losing the constitutional challenge in the US Supreme Court in 2002 one of the two Doe's in the case committed suicide. The other Doe began a new challenge in the state courts. Per the ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY website: On 25 July 2008, Doe number two prevailed and the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act’s registration violated the ex post facto clause of the state's constitution and ruled that the requirement does not apply to persons who committed their crimes before the act became effective on 10 August 1994.[39]


The California Supreme Court ruled on 2 March 2015 that a state law barring sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park is unconstitutional.[40] The ruling immediately affects only San Diego County, where the case originated. The court found that in San Diego County, the 2,000-feet rule meant that less than 3 percent of multi-unit housing was available to offenders. Additionally, federal law banned anyone in a state database of sex offenders from receiving federal housing subsidies after June 2001.


In the ruling of Heggs v. State, 718 So.2d 263(1998), and in 2000, The Supreme Court denied Florida's request for rehearing on the constitutionality of the 1995 sentencing guidelines due to the unconstitutionality being a violation of the "Single Subject Rule," leaving the decision by the 2nd DCA to set precedence. It has opened a Pandora's box for Florida Legislature as many laws that were enacted violating Article III, section 6, Single subject rule are open to constitutional arguments. In the decision of Heggs, many laws which were enacted now face a constitutional argument as it is clear there is an unconstitutional, illegal and unlawful enactment of §943.0435, which was enacted in Florida Chapter Law 97-299: Senate Bill 958. The Bill was related to the release of Public Records Information.

Florida legislature outlined Sex Offender Registration in the creation of §943.0435, further in the Bill the single subject rule was violated when 1998 §921.0017 Credit Upon Resentence of an Offender Serving a Split Sentence, which has nothing in regards to the release of public records information as Legislature attempted to mask a cross reference correction. In the correction there was statutory language added in effort to bring it in compliance with the Florida Constitution and 3 subsections appeared in §921.0017, that were in regards to appropriation of funds.

In the 1998 supplement where the new amendments and created laws would have been published. §921.0017 as well as §921.243 were no where to be found. In great research the cross reference error in §921.0017 was the focus, and the added statutory language appears in an illegally and unlawfully enacted statute §921.243 that cites 97 – 299; Senate Bill 958; Florida chapter law 97-299 never creates §921.243, nor ever cites it for amendment and the 3 subsections dealing with appropriation of funds are being searched for within the 1998 supplement, as they are of great interest due to Albrights summary which he made it clear that Senate Bill 958 would not need any new funding or cause for any new taxes. The confusing things is there was no scheduled House meeting according to the Florida House of Representatives Website, yet the Analysis summary is dated 17 March 1997 with 7 yeas and 0 nays from Committee on Crime and Punishment & Representatives Albright, Ball & others. Florida could stand to be the only State unable to justify any constitutional reasoning as this has yet to be decided nor the reasoning for the appropriations found.


In State v. Bani, 36 P.3d 1255 (Haw. 2001), the Hawaii State Supreme Court held that Hawaii's sex offender registration statute violated the due process clause of the Constitution of Hawaii, ruling that it deprived potential registrants "of a protected liberty interest without due process of law". The Court reasoned that the sex offender law authorized "public notification of (the potential registrant's) status as a convicted sex offender without notice, an opportunity to be heard, or any preliminary determination of whether and to what extent (he) actually represents a danger to society".[41]


U.S. District Court Judge Robert Cleland issued a ruling March 31, 2015 striking down four portions of Michigan's Sex Offender Registry Act, calling them unconstitutional. A ruling stated the "geographic exclusion zones" in the Sex Offender Registry Act, such as student safety areas that stretch for 1,000 feet around schools, are unconstitutional. Judge Cleland also stated law enforcement doesn't have strong enough guidelines to know how to measure the 1,000-foot exclusion zone around schools. Neither sex offenders or law enforcement have the tools or data to determine the zones.[42]


Many successful challenges to sex offender registration laws in the United States have been in Missouri because of a unique provision in the Missouri Constitution (Article I, Section 13) prohibiting laws "retrospective in [their] operation".[43]

In Doe v. Phillips, 194 S.W.3d 837 (Mo. banc 2006), the Supreme Court of Missouri held that the Missouri Constitution did not allow the state to place anyone on the registry who had been convicted or pleaded guilty to a registrable offense before the sex offender registration law went into effect on 1 January 1995.[44] and remanded the case for further consideration in light of that holding.[44] On remand, the Jackson County Circuit Court entered an injunction ordering that the applicable individuals be removed from the published sex offender list.[45] Defendant Colonel James Keathley appealed that order to the Missouri Court of Appeals in Kansas City, which affirmed the injunction on 1 April 2008.[45] Keathley filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Missouri.

In response to these rulings, in 2007, several Missouri state Senators proposed an amendment to the Missouri Constitution that would exempt sex offender registration laws from the ban on retrospective civil laws.[46] The proposed amendment passed the State Senate unanimously but was not passed by the Missouri House of Representatives before the end of the 2007 legislative session.[47] The same constitutional amendment was proposed in and passed by the Missouri Senate again in 2008, but also was not passed by the House of Representatives by the end of that year's legislative session.[48] As a result, the decisions of the Missouri courts prohibiting the retrospective application of sex offender laws remained intact.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled on Keathley's appeal (Doe v. Phillips now styled Doe v. Keathley) on 16 June 2009. The Court held that the Missouri Constitution's provision prohibiting laws retrospective in operation no longer exempts individuals from registration if they are subject to the independent Federal obligation created under the Sexual Offenders Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 42 U.S.C. § 16913.[49] As a result, many offenders who were previously exempt under the Court's 2006 holding in Doe v. Phillips were once again required to register.

On 12 January 2010, Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan ruled that individuals who plead guilty to a sex offense are not required to register under Federal Law and thus are not required to register in Missouri if the date of their plea was prior to the passage of the Missouri registration law.[50]

Missouri also has a number of laws that restrict the activities of persons required to register as sex offenders, several of which have also been challenged as being retrospective in their operation. On 19 February 2008, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that a law prohibiting registered sex offenders from residing within one thousand feet of a school was retrospective in operation as applied to registered sex offenders who had resided at a location within such a distance prior to the enactment of the law.[51] Another exception to the school-residence proximity requirement was handed down by the Court on 12 January 2010 in F.R. v. St. Charles County Sheriff's Department. In this case, F.R. was convicted prior to the enactment of the law and the Court held that, as such, he was not required to abide by the restriction.[52] Consolidated with F.R. was State of Missouri v. Raynor, in which the Court found that Charles A. Raynor was not required to comply with R.S.Mo. § 589.426, a law restricting the activities of registered sex offenders on Halloween.[53] It should be noted that, in both F.R. and Raynor, the ruling applies only to the named party.

New York[edit]

Local governments in New York cannot restrict where registered sex offenders can live, according to a ruling by the state's highest court published 31 May 2015. Under New York law, only level 3 offenders and those on probation or parole are prohibited from being within 1,000 feet of school grounds or a day care center.[54]

North Carolina[edit]

In North Carolina, § 14-27.5A or sexual battery is a misdemeanor and a requirement for registry for a period of 30 years. North Carolina has labeled the law as sexually violent offense despite it being a misdemeanor.[55]

§ 14-202.5 Bans use of commercial social networking Web sites by sex offenders.[56] Potentially this means that a registered offender could be charged by authorities for use of Google or other public internet sites. On August 20, 2013 the North Carolina Court of Appeals struck down the law saying law "is not narrowly tailored, is vague, and fails to target the 'evil' it is intended to rectify," the three-judge appellate panel said in its 21-page opinion.[57] On August 30, 2013 the NC Supreme Court grants NC Attorney General Roy Cooper’s request for a stay of Court of Appeals ruling. That stay was granted but no other outcome from that stay has moved forward.[58]

G.S. 14-208.18(a)(2), which makes it a Class H felony for certain registered sex offenders to “knowingly be . . . [w]ithin 300 feet of any location intended primarily for the use, care, or supervision of minors when the place is located on premises that not intended primarily for the use, care, or supervision of minors, including, but not limited to, [schools, children’s museums, child care centers, nurseries, and playgrounds] that are located in malls, shopping centers, or other property open to the general public.” [59][60] This law as written could be interpreted that sex offenders could be arrested at a McDonald’s, shopping malls, stores that sell video games and churches. The law was challenged and overturned in 2009 by a Chatham County Superior Court judge,[61] but never removed or rewritten and still enforced on levels of interpretation by local sheriffs. On February 17, 2015, Graham County Sheriff Danny Millsaps told registered sex offenders they can't go to church, citing a state law meant to keep them from day-care centers and schools. He invited them to attend church service at the county jail. In Buncombe County, sex offenders are permitted in church as long as pastors know and are in agreement, Sheriff Van Duncan says.[62]

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on March 30, 2015[63] that a North Carolina sex offender should have a chance to challenge an order that he/she wear a GPS monitoring bracelet around the clock and for the rest of his life. The defendant Torrey Dale Grady argued that the state's lifetime GPS monitoring system is unreasonable because it allows state officials to enter his home - with or without his permission - to maintain a GPS monitoring base station. Grady also complains that he must charge the bracelet every day by plugging it into a wall outlet for four to six hours at a time. In 2012, the court ruled that placing the tracking units on cars to follow their movement is a search. That case did not decide whether attaching the devices without a search warrant violated the Constitution.[64]

Adam Walsh Act (2006)[edit]

Legal authority[edit]

Title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, abbreviated as SORNA, and codified under 42 U.S.C.16911 et seq., is a federal mandate requiring U.S. jurisdictions to update their sex offender registration laws to conform with federal guidelines. States that do not substantially implement SORNA face a mandatory 10% penalty in their Bureau of Justice Assistance grant under 42 U.S.C. 3750 et seq.[65]

Tiers of offenses[edit]

Crimes that are deemed sex offenses for registration purposes have been expanded under SORNA. Each state must decide which tier violations of state law belong to, depending on the following guidelines, and then enact statutes that tier each criminal offense. This is in contrast to the current method in some states, where prosecutors, sex offender registry boards or the courts tier individual offenders.

Thus, an offender's tier under this scheme is based on the particular statute to which an offender plead guilty, or was convicted of. So an offender's tier is not necessarily based on the seriousness of the crime, nor does it reflect the danger or re-offense risk of the offender. However, offenses must be punishable by imprisonment for more than 1 year (i.e., a felony) to be classified higher than Tier I. Critics say that mandatory registration requirement based solely on the virtue of a conviction makes sex offender registries less efficient in keeping track of more dangerous offenders, and unnecessarily exposes non-dangerous low-level offenders to severe adverse consequences of being labelled as a sex offender.

Violations of state law are tiered according to the federal offenses to which they are comparable, or more serious than. Note that for federal purposes, sexual act typically refers to sexual penetration, while sexual contact refers to a touching offense, though sexual act can include sexual contact depending on the reading of the statute.[66]

Tier III Offenses require lifetime registration and quarterly verification, involve:[67]

  • sexual acts involving force or carried out under threat, 18 U.S.C. 2241(a)[68]
  • sexual acts with one whom the actor causes unconscious, or impairs by drugging or intoxication, 18 U.S.C. 2241(b)[68]
  • sexual acts with a child under the age of 12, 18 U.S.C. 2241(c)[68]
  • sexual acts with one whom is mentally incapable of appraising, or physically incapable of declining, or communicates unwillingness of, the sex act, 18 U.S.C. 2242[69]
  • sexual contact with a child under the age of 12, 18 U.S.C. 2244(c)[70]
  • non-parental kidnapping or false imprisonment of minors,
  • any attempt or conspiracy to commit of any of the above, and
  • any new offense committed by a Tier II offender.

Tier II Offenses require registration for 25 years and semiannual verification. It generally consists of nonviolent sex offenses, involving minors:[67]

  • sex trafficking of minors, 18 U.S.C. 1591[71]
  • transportation of minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, 18 U.S.C. 2423[72]
  • coercion and enticement (Mann Act), 18 U.S.C. 2422(b)[73]
  • sexual acts with minors age 12–15, 18 U.S.C. 2243(a)[74]
  • sexual contact with minors age 12–15, 18 U.S.C. 2244[70]
  • sexual offenses involving those in custody, and the actor has custodial, supervisory, or disciplinary authority, 18 U.S.C. 2243(b)[75]
  • offenses where minors are used in prostitution,
  • offenses where minors are used in sexual performance,
  • offenses involving the production or distribution of child pornography,
  • any attempt or conspiracy to commit of any of the above, and
  • any new offense committed by a Tier I offender.

Tier I Offenses require registration for 15 years and annual verification. This tier is for sex offenses that do not fall into the higher tiers, and includes both felonies and misdemeanors. States can include any conduct that by its nature is a sex offense, although Tier I is generally reserved for nonviolent offenses where the victim has reached the age of consent:

  • sexual contact without permission, 18 U.S.C. 2244(b)[70]
  • offenses involving simple possession of child pornography,
  • offenses involving public indecency (some states limit this to where the victim is a minor),
  • offenses involving voyeurism, 18 U.S.C. 1801[76]
Retroactive application[edit]

The required retroactive application of requirements will be defined by criteria relating to the nature of their sex offenses. For example a tier 3 sex offender who was released from imprisonment for such an offense in 1930 will still have to register for the remainder of their life. A tier 2 sex offender convicted in 1980 is already more than 25 years out from the time of release. In such cases, a jurisdiction may credit the sex offender with the time elapsed from his or her release.

Application to offenses other than felony sexual offenses[edit]

Sex offender registration has been applied to crimes other than rape, child molestation, and child pornography offenses and is sometimes applied to certain non-sexual offenses.[77]

In Connecticut, those with state convictions for certain misdemeanors have to register, including: Public Indecency, in violation of C.G.S. § 53a-186, provided the court finds the victim was under 18; and Sexual Assault, 4th Degree, in violation of C.G.S. § 53a-73a.[78]

In New York and various other states, crimes that society does not necessarily view as sexual in nature are also considered to be registerable sex offenses, such as kidnapping, "sexual misconduct", unlawful imprisonment, and in some cases "sexually motivated offenses" (such as assault, burglary, etc.) that are not categorized as sexual offenses unless the court determines that the offense was committed pursuant to the offender's own sexual gratification. In New York specifically, kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment are registerable offenses only if the victim is under 17 and the offender is not a parent of the victim.[79]

In Kentucky, all sex offenders who move into the state and are required to register in their previous home states are required to register with Kentucky for life, even if they were not required to register for life in their previous residence.[80]

A few states have also created separate online registries for crimes other than sex offenses. Montana, for example, has a publicly accessible violent offender registry that includes crimes such as aggravated assault, robbery, assaulting a peace officer, both deliberate and non-deliberate homicide and a third conviction for domestic violence. Kansas has publicly accessible registries of people convicted of both serious drug offenses and people convicted of crimes involving a weapon. Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Montana all have publicly accessible registries for those convicted of murder. Florida requires all felons, regardless of the crime, to register with law enforcement for 5 years after release, although the Florida felon registry is not available to the general public. If a felon in Florida is convicted of enough non-sexual felonies in a certain period of time, however, they are required to register for the rest of their life on a "Habitual Offender" registry that is available to the general public. Ohio even has a publicly accessible registry for people convicted 5 or more times of drunken driving.

In 2014, a murder registry was proposed in Rhode Island and an animal abuser registry was proposed in Pennsylvania. A bill to create a publicly accessible registry for domestic violence offenders passed the Texas House of Representatives in 2013, but was not voted on in the Texas Senate.

Public disclosure of sex offender information[edit]

Currently, only United States allows, and more often than not, requires public disclosure of offender information, regardless of individual risk. Other countries do not make sex offender information public, unless the risk assessment has been conducted and the offender has been determined to pose high risk of re-offending.

In United States[edit]

In some localities in United States, the lists of all sex offenders are made available to the public: for example, through the newspapers, community notification, or the Internet. However, in other localities, the complete lists are not available to the general public but are known to the police. In the United States offenders are often classified in three categories: Level (Tier) I, Level II, and Level III offenders, Information is usually accessible related to that level (information being more accessible to the public for higher level offenders). In some US jurisdictions, the level of offender is reflecting the evaluated recidivism risk of the individual offender, while in others, the level is designated merely by the virtue of conviction, without assessing the risk level posed by the offender.

In general, in states applying risk-based registry schemes, low-risk (Tier I) offenders are often excluded from the public disclosure. In some states only the highest risk (Tier III) offenders are subject to public disclosure, while some states also include moderate-risk (Tier II) offenders in public websites.[28]

In SORNA compliant states, only Tier I registrants may be excluded from public disclosure, but since SORNA merely sets the minimum set of rules that states must follow, many SORNA compliant states have adopted stricter system and have opted to disclose information of all tiers. Some states have disclosed some of Tier I offenders,[81] while in some states all Tier I offenders are excluded from public disclosure.[28]

Just like states differ with respect to disclosure of information regarding different Tiers/Levels, they also differ with respect to classifying offenses into tiers. Thus, identical offenses committed in different states could produce very different outcomes in terms of public disclosure and registration period. Offense classified as Tier I offense in one state with no public disclosure, might be classified as Tier II or Tier III offense in another, leading to considerably longer registration period and public disclosure. These disparities in state legislation have caused unexpected problems to some registrants when moving from state to another, finding themselves subject to public disclosure on their destination state's sex offender website, and longer registration period (sometimes for life), even though they originally were excluded from public registry and required to register for shorter period. Some states appear to apply "catch-all" statutes for former registrants moving in to their jurisdiction, requiring registration and public posting of information, even when the person has completed his original registration period. At least one state (Illinois) reclassifies all registrants moving in the state into the highest possible tier (Sexual Predator), regardless of the original tier of the person, leading to a lifetime registration requirement and being publicly labelled as a "Sexual predator"[82]

Determining the Tier level and whether or not a person would be subject to public disclosure, when relocating to another state might be close to impossible to tell without consulting an attorney and/or officials responsible for managing registration in destination state, due to constantly changing laws and vagueness in some states legislative language.

While these disparities in level of public disclosure among different states might cause unexpected problems to registration, they have also caused some registrants to move into locations where public disclosure of lower level offenders is not permitted, in order to avoid public persecution and other adverse effects of public disclosure they were experiencing in their original location.[83]

Additional restrictions beyond public notice[edit]

Sex offenders on parole or probation are generally subject to the same restrictions as other parolees and probationers.

Sex offenders who have completed probation or parole may also be subject to restrictions above and beyond those of most felons. In some jurisdictions they cannot live within a certain distance of places children or families gather. Such places are usually schools, worship centers, and parks, but could also include public venues (stadiums), airports, apartments, malls, major retail stores, college campuses, and certain neighborhoods (unless for essential business). In some states, they may also be barred from voting after a sentence has been completed and, at federal level, (like all ex-felons) barred from owning firearms.

Some states have Civil Commitment laws, which allow very-high-risk sex offenders to be placed in psychiatric hospitals or forced to live under very heavy supervision after the end of their normal sentences. See also: Child Sex Offender penalties.

The State of Missouri now restricts the activities of registered sex offenders on Halloween, requiring them to avoid Halloween-related contact with children and remain at their registered home address from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., unless they are required to work that evening. Regardless of whether they are at work, offenders must extinguish all outside residential lighting and post a sign stating, "No candy or treats at this residence - sex offender at this residence".[84]

In the United Kingdom, anyone convicted of any criminal offence cannot work in the legal, medical, teaching, or nursing professions. List 99 includes people convicted of sex offences barred from working in education and social work, though it also includes people convicted of theft, fraud, corruption, assault, and drugs offences.

Facebook and Twitter prohibit any convicted sex offender from accessing and/or contributing to their websites.[85]

Effectiveness and consequences[edit]

The vast majority of sexual offense victims are known to the offender, either related, or intimate to the victim; this is contrary to media depictions of stranger assaults or child molesters who kidnap children unknown to them.[86] Thus, despite the public awareness of the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders, there has been no evidence shown that mandatory registration has made society safer. According to ATSA, only in the states that utilize empirically derived risk assessment procedures and publicly identify only high risk offenders, has community notification demonstrated some effectiveness.[87][88] Majority of U.S states do not utilize risk assessment tools when determining ones inclusion on the registry, although studies have shown that actuarial risk assessment instruments, which are created by putting together risk factors found by research to correlate with re-offending, consistently outperform the offense based systems.[89]

Studies almost always show that residency restrictions increase offender's recidivism rates by increasing offender homelessness and increasing instability in a sex offender's lives. According to a Department of Justice study, 3.5% of sex offenders who were released from prison in 1994 were arrested for a new sex offense after 3 years.[90] Robbers, arsonists and property crime committers (all of which have a recidivism rate of 60–70 percent after 3 years) were the most likely to re-offend group. Despite the public perception of sex offenders as having high recidivism, sex offenders had the second lowest recidivism rate, after only murderers. A later study done by the Department of Justice showed an even lower sex offender recidivism rate of about 2.1 percent after 3 years. However, since sex crimes are the most under-reported crimes, whether or not the Department of Justice's 3.5% sex offender recidivism rate is deceptively low is unclear. Recidivism rates only measure how many people return to prison or are arrested for a new offense and do not measure how many people actually commit a new criminal offense (some criminals commit new offenses after release from prison but do not get caught.) In the late 2000s, a study showed that Indiana sex offenders have recidivism of about 1.03% after 3 years.[91] Studies consistently show sex offender recidivism rates of 1–4% after 3 years, recividism is usually at about 5–10% after a long follow up (such as a 10–25 year follow up.)

A study done by professors from Columbia University and the University of Michigan found that having police-only sex offender registries (such as the registries in Britain, Canada and Australia) significantly reduces sex offender recidivism, but making information about sex offenders publicly available significantly increases recidivism rates.[92] This is because making sex offender information public increases offender stress and also makes the thought of returning to prison less threatening, as some sex offenders may feel returning to prison is not significantly worse than being on the public registry. Some sex offenders may come to view their central identity as being that of a sex offender due to the registry, and the more a sex offender views themselves as being a criminal the more likely they are to reoffend. However, the study also found that making sex offender registration publicly available may deter some potential first time sex offenders from committing an offense that would get them on the registry in the first place. The thought of getting on the sex offender registry may or may not deter non-sex offenders from committing sex crimes.

A study by University of Chicago graduate student Amanda Agan compared sex offender recidivism rates in states where sex offenders were required to register in 1994 with states where they were not required to register in 1994. The results of the study were that sex offender recidivism was, in fact, slightly lower in states where sex offenders were not required to register. This made Agan question whether creating sex offender registries was a rational idea. The study also showed that blocks in Washington DC where sex offenders lived did not have higher molestation rates than blocks where sex offenders did not live.[93]

In at least two instances, convicted sex offenders were murdered after their information was made available over the Internet.[94] The spouse, children and other family members of a sex offender often have negative consequences as a result of having a family member on the registry. For example, residency restrictions will make it harder for a sex offender's spouse and children, not just a sex offender themselves, to find housing. Residency restrictions may even cause a sex offender's family to be homeless. Sex offenders' spouses and children can also face harassment and financial hardship as a result of their loved one's sex offender status. More than half of the children of sex offenders say that fellow students treat them worse due to a parent's RSO status.

The Human Rights Watch organization criticized these laws in a 146-page report published in 2007.[2] and another report in 2013.[3]

Registration and homelessness[edit]

People who are registered in offender databases are usually required to notify the government when they change their place of residence.[citation needed] This notification requirement is problematic in cases where the registered offender is homeless.

The state of Washington is among those that have special provisions in their registration code covering homeless offenders, but not all states have such provisions. A November 2006 Maryland Court of Appeals ruling exempts homeless persons from that state's registration requirements, which has prompted a drive to compose new laws covering this contingency.

News reports in 2007 revealed that some registered sex offenders were living outside or under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami, Florida because Miami-Dade County ordinances, which are more restrictive than Florida's state laws, made it virtually impossible for them to find housing. [2][3][dead link] [4] The colony at the causeway grew to as many as 140 registrants living there as of July 2009, but eventually became a political embarrassment and was disbanded in April 2010, when the residents moved into acceptable housing in the area.

As of 2013 Suffolk County, New York, which had imposed onerous restrictions on sex offenders exceeding those required by New York State law, was faced with a situation where 40 sex offenders were living in two cramped trailers located in isolated locations.[95] This situation had been created by the county in 2007 as a solution to the problem of housing sex offenders.[96]

See also[edit]


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  87. ^ "The Registration and Community Notification of Adult Sexual Offenders". Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. 5 April 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2014. The research that has been completed is mixed and does not consistently conclude that community notification reduces recidivism, prevents sex crimes, protects children, or enhances community safety. Importantly, the states (e.g. MN, WA) where community notification has appeared to demonstrate some effectiveness utilize empirically derived risk assessment procedures and publicly identify only high risk offenders. 
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  95. ^ Michael Schwirtz (4 February 2013). "In 2 Trailers, the Neighbors Nobody Wants". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  96. ^ Corey Kilgannon (17 February 2007). "Suffolk County to Keep Sex Offenders on the Move". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 February 2013. Now officials of this county on Long Island say they have a solution: putting sex offenders in trailers to be moved regularly around the county, parked for several weeks at a time on public land away from residential areas and enforcing stiff curfews. 

External links[edit]