In October 1989, a young boy named Jacob Wetterling was abducted at gunpoint in rural Minnesota by a masked man. He was 11 years old. Wetterling's body was recovered 27 years later, but the crime still remains unsolved despite a highly publicized law enforcement investigation and a substantial reward leading to Wetterling's safe return. But the child's suffering was not in vain.
As a result of this incident, and the national attention it received, Wetterling's parents became advocates for locating missing children and successfully lobbied for laws that kept tabs on the nation's sex offenders. The impact of Jacob Wetterling's tragic abduction led to the enactment of national sex offender registry laws throughout the country.
Below, you'll find more specific information about the evolution of sex offender laws and sexually violent offender registration requirements.
SORNA and Other Sexually Violent Offender Registration Requirements
Under the current laws, defendants who are convicted of certain sex crimes are required to register on a national list for monitoring and various other purposes. Under a comprehensive federal law known as "The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act " (SORNA), states are required to maintain a system for monitoring and tracking convicted sex offenders following their release into the community.
SORNA attempts to make sex offender registration uniform in both the information collected and the type of sex crimes committed. It requires:
- Registration for sex offenders in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and federally recognized Indian tribes;
- Registered sex offenders to keep their registration current;
- More extensive registration information;
- Periodic in-person appearances;
- Disclosure of greater information to the public; and
- Minimum duration of registration for sex offenders.
It wasn't always that way. Prior to the enactment of SORNA, there was no uniform system in place to track and monitor what society deems as sexual predators. It all changed in 1994, when the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act was enacted as part of the landmark Federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, that requires every state to maintain registries of convicted sex offenders and to track where they live after being released from prison.
Community Notification and Megan's Law
Over time, SORNA has been updated and changed to reflect circumstances not previously considered. In 1996 such a change was made when Congress amended the Wetterling Act to include a key provision requiring law enforcement to release information about registered sex offenders to the general public. Known as Megan's Law or community notification laws, it's still in effect today.
SORNA was again changed in 2006 as part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. This act was reauthorized in 2017 which made changes to the act by giving states more flexibility in classifying sex offenders and lowering the period that certain juveniles must register and limiting public access to information about juvenile sex offenders.
However, despite these efforts, many sex offenders still fail to comply with the laws and they face severe criminal penalties for failing to register as required by law. Although some states require different information, the basic national guidelines for sexually violent offender registration requirements are:
- Names and aliases
- Internet identifiers
- Telephone numbers
- Social security number
- Date of birth
- Physical description
- Residence, temporary and travel addresses
- Current photograph
- Fingerprints and palm prints
- Employer name and address
- Professional licenses
- Name and address of school
- Vehicle information
- Driver's license
- Text of registration offense
- Criminal history
Sexually Violent Offender Registration Requirements: Related Resources
If you would like to conduct additional research, click on the links below for more information.
Charged with a Sexually Violent Crime? You'll Want Legal Representation
If you've been accused of a sex crime that would require you to register as a sexual offender upon conviction, you will want to have the best legal representation possible. Luckily, this process has been made easier for you. There are many skilled criminal defense attorneys who can assist you with your case and help you to defend against any charges.