Deadline for Action on Sex Offender Registration Passes –14 States in Compliance So Far

July 27th – the deadline for states to substantially implement Title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 – has come and gone.  And so far, only 14 states were reported to be in compliance by the deadline.

That’s according to Linda Baldwin, Director of the Department of Justice's Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART), who administers the Act's Title 1 Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) requirements. Baldwin was quoted in a recent press release by the Department of Justice:

“To date, 14 states, nine tribes and one territory have substantially implemented SORNA's requirements. We are reviewing as quickly as possible the materials submitted before the deadline by additional jurisdictions.”

According to the press release, the following jurisdictions met the deadline: Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming. In addition, several tribal jurisdictions and the United States territory of Guam have been found by the SMART Office to have substantially implemented SORNA.

However, more states may be in compliance – they just haven’t been counted yet, according to Baldwin. “Due to the number of recent submissions, we do not yet have a complete count of how many jurisdictions were able to implement SORNA by the deadline,” said Baldwin. “We are reviewing submissions as quickly as possible and will announce decisions about additional jurisdictions in the coming months as the reviews are completed.”

States that fail to “substantially implement” SORNA by the deadline could face a significant loss of funding – including a 10 percent reduction in amounts awarded under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program (JAG), which is generally used by states to improve local criminal justice programs with an emphasis on violent crime and serious offenders.

Background on SORNA

On the 25th anniversary of Adam Walsh’s kidnapping, the federal government enacted the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-248) to protect children and the public from violent sex offenders. Adamwas abducted from a Sears department store in Hollywood, Fla., July 27, 1981, and later found murdered. His death drew national publicity, and his father, John Walsh, later became an advocate for victims of violent crime and the host of the television program America’s Most Wanted.

Wide discrepancies in state sex offender registries led to the passage of the Act, in particular Title I commonly known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, or SORNA.  SORNA sought to standardize registration and notification requirements across the country, while also providing for greater offender accountability and increased sanctions for noncompliance.

SORNA took effect immediately when the Adam Walsh Act was signed by the President on July 27, 2006, and applies to all sex offenders in the federal system, regardless of date of conviction. Presumably, this was also true for jurisdictions that adopted SORNA requirements, which meant states would need to reclassify all of their current sex offenders and apply new standards to their registration, in some cases retroactively.  This retroactivity component has been the focus of much of the controversy surrounding SORNA, leading to litigation and the subsequent publication of guidelines from the Department of Justice.

The Adam Walsh Act sets a minimum national standard for state sex offender registries and notification laws with intent to overhaul sex offender laws across the nation. The Act, which is divided into seven titles, calls for a more detailed, uniform and nationalized system of sex offender registries; addresses issues of child pornography, Internet safety and civil commitment; creates grants for electronic monitoring; and revises the Immigration and Nationality Act to address immigrants who are sex offenders.

For more information about SORNA and the SMART Office, visit www.smart.gov.