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Frequently Asked Questions

Description

Registration FAQs

SORNA requires sex offenders to register and keep their registration current in each jurisdiction where they live, work or go to school.

See Part VIII of the Final Guidelines for more details.

SORNA requires that a sex offender must appear in person, allow the jurisdiction to take a current photograph and verify the information in each jurisdiction in which that sex offender is required to register (where they live, work and go to school) at least―

  • Annually for a tier I sex offender,
  • Every six months for a tier II sex offender, and
  • Every three months for a tier III sex offender.

SORNA specifies the minimum required duration of sex offender registration for tier I sex offenders to be 15 years, for tier II sex offenders to be 25 years, and for tier III sex offenders to register for life. The registration period begins upon release from custody for a sex offender sentenced to incarceration for the registration offense; in the case of non-incarcerated sex offenders, the registration period begins at the time of sentencing for the sex offense.

SORNA allows jurisdictions to reduce an offender’s registration period in two circumstances: 1) a tier I sex offender who maintains a clean record may have their registration period reduced from 15 to 10 years and 2) a sex offender who is required to register for life based on a juvenile delinquency adjudication may have their registration terminated after maintaining a clean record for 25 years.

To have a clean record, the sex offender must satisfy the following:

  • Not be convicted of any offense for which imprisonment for more than one year may be imposed,
  • Not be convicted of any sex offense regardless of the penalty,
  • Successfully complete any periods of supervised release, probation or parole, and
  • Successfully complete an appropriate sex offender treatment program certified by a jurisdiction or by the Attorney General.

Sex offenders who fail to register may be subject to failure-to-register charges depending on the jurisdiction’s laws. Additionally, if federal jurisdiction exists (such as interstate or international travel, travel in and out of Indian Country, or conviction for a federal sex offense requiring registration), a sex offender who knowingly fails to register or update a registration under SORNA can be prosecuted for a federal failure-to-register offense (under 18 U.S.C. § 2250) with up to 10 years of imprisonment.

Yes. If a sex offender convicted or adjudicated delinquent is required to register under SORNA, and knowingly fails to register or update a registration as required, and the sex offender travels between states, internationally or in and out of Indian Country, then the offender can be prosecuted for a federal failure-to-register offense (under 18 U.S.C. § 2250) with up to 10 years of imprisonment.

See Part XIII of the Final Guidelines for more details.

SORNA applies to all sex offenders, including those convicted of their registration offenses prior to the enactment of SORNA (July 27, 2006) or prior to a particular jurisdiction’s incorporation of the SORNA requirements into its program. Jurisdictions are specifically required to register sex offenders who remain in the system as prisoners, supervisees or registrants, or if they later re-enter the system because of conviction for some other crime (whether or not the new crime is a sex offense).

See Part II.C and IX of the Final Guidelines for more details.

No. Residency restrictions and safety zones are not part of SORNA. However, state and local jurisdictions may enact legislation that restricts sex offenders from living near or being in certain areas (e.g., within a certain distance of schools, parks or playgrounds). Inquiries about residency restrictions or safety zones should be directed to the jurisdiction or local officials.

SORNA Implementation FAQs

The SMART Office works to determine if each state, tribe, territory and district has substantially implemented SORNA’s requirements, using the framework of the SORNA Final Guidelines. The SMART Office evaluates each jurisdiction’s laws and policies to see if they meet SORNA’s minimum standards. The guidelines state that jurisdictions’ programs cannot be approved if they substitute some approach to sex offender registration and notification that does not incorporate SORNA’s baseline requirements. In addition, the guidelines state that implementation programs cannot be approved if they dispense wholesale with categorical requirements set forth in SORNA.

However, the guidelines allow the SMART Office to approve a jurisdiction’s implementation efforts that deviate from SORNA or the guidelines if those efforts do not substantially disserve a requirement’s objectives. SMART considers each requirement on a case-by-case basis. After assessing whether a jurisdiction has sufficiently addressed each SORNA requirement, SMART examines the jurisdiction’s registration and notification program as a whole to determine if it implements SORNA’s overall objectives.

Jurisdictions should reach out to the SMART Office as early as possible when developing or revising their SORNA implementation program and discuss specific issues that may arise. SMART works to be as flexible as possible within the framework established by the Act and the guidelines, and to provide each jurisdiction guidance in its efforts to achieve substantial implementation.

See Part II.B and E of the Final Guidelines for more details.

States and territories that fail to substantially implement SORNA are subject to a 10% reduction in Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant funding pursuant to 34 U.S.C. § 10151 et seq. Tribal jurisdictions that fail to substantially implement SORNA are subject to delegation to the state in which their lands are located. 34 U.S.C. § 20929 (a)(2)(C) of SORNA provides that if "the Attorney General determines that the tribe has not substantially implemented the requirements of this subtitle and is not likely to become capable of doing so within a reasonable amount of time" then the sex offender registry function may be delegated to the state.

See Parts II.A and II.E of the Final Guidelines for more details.

The following information is required to be collected and included in a jurisdiction’s sex offender registry:

  • Criminal history
  • Date of birth
  • DNA sample
  • Driver’s license or identification card
  • Employer information
  • Fingerprints
  • Internet identifiers
  • Name
  • Palm prints
  • Passport and immigration documents
  • Phone numbers
  • Photograph
  • Physical description
  • Professional licensing information
  • Residence information
  • School information
  • Social Security number
  • Temporary lodging information
  • Text of registration offense
  • Vehicle information

SORNA requires jurisdictions immediately share information with other jurisdictions and specified entities, and post much of the information on public sex offender registry websites.

See Part VII of the Final Guidelines for more details.

SORNA requires that the following offender information be posted on public sex offender registry websites:

  • Name, including any aliases.
  • Resident address, including any information about where the offender "habitually lives."
  • Employer address, including any place the sex offender is employed, works or volunteers.
  • School address, including any place where the sex offender attends school.
  • Vehicle(s) license plate number and description.
  • Physical description.
  • Current offense, including the sex offense for which the offender is currently required to register and any other sex offense for which the sex offender has been convicted.
  • Photograph, which must be kept current.

Jurisdictions may exempt from public posting information about tier I sex offenders convicted of offenses against adults (under section 118(c)(1)) and juveniles adjudicated delinquent of sexual offenses.

See Part VII.A of the Final Guidelines and the 2011 Supplemental Guidelines for more details.

Jurisdictions are prohibited from disclosing five types of information on their publicly accessible sex offender websites. This mandatory exemption does not limit jurisdictions from disclosing this information in other contexts, such as to law enforcement. The mandatory exempted types of information are―

  • The victim’s identity,
  • The Social Security number of the sex offender,
  • Any reference to arrests of the sex offender that did not result in conviction,
  • Passport and immigration document numbers, and
  • Internet identifiers.

See Part VII.A of the Final Guidelines for more details.

After a sex offender registers or updates a registration, the information in a registry (other than information exempted from disclosure by the Attorney General) must be provided to various specified entities and individuals. These include the following:

  • Certain federal law enforcement databases.
  • Law enforcement and supervision agencies.
  • Any jurisdiction where the sex offender lives, works or goes to school, and each jurisdiction from or to which a change of residence, employment or student status occurs.
  • Any agency responsible for conducting employment-related background checks under section 3 of the National Child Protection Act of 1993.
  • Each school and public housing agency in each jurisdiction where the sex offender lives, works or goes to school.
  • Social service entities responsible for protecting minors in the child welfare system.
  • Volunteer organizations in which contact with minors or other vulnerable individuals might occur.
  • Any organization, company or individual who requests such notification pursuant to procedures established by the jurisdiction.

The requirements in the list above for sharing information among jurisdictions and with certain governmental entities (such as law enforcement agencies) are subject to special standards and procedures described in the Final Guidelines.

With respect to schools, public housing, social service and volunteer organizations, as well as any request for notification, these information dissemination objectives can be achieved by incorporating appropriate notification functions into the sex offender websites. Specifically, a jurisdiction can meet SORNA requirements in this regard if it adopts an automated notification system that incorporates substantially the following features:

  • The information required to be included on sex offender websites is posted on the jurisdiction’s sex offender website within three business days.
  • The jurisdiction’s sex offender website includes a function that allows members of the public and organizations to request email notification when sex offenders commence living, working or going to school within ZIP code or geographic radius areas specified by the requester.
  • After a jurisdiction’s public registry website is updated with new residence, employment or school attendance information for a sex offender in an area specified by the requester, the system automatically sends an email notice to the requester identifying the sex offender sufficiently that the requester can search for and locate the offender’s information on the website.

The Department of Justice has developed software resources to support an automated email notification system that is available to all registry jurisdictions.

See Part VII.B of the Final Guidelines for more details.

SORNA requires registration for a defined class of older juveniles who are adjudicated delinquent for committing particularly serious sexual assault crimes (or attempts or conspiracies to commit such crimes). 34 U.S.C. § 20911 provides that delinquency adjudications are considered convictions under SORNA "only if the offender is 14 years of age or older at the time of the offense and the offense adjudicated was comparable to or more severe than aggravated sexual abuse (as described in section 2241 of title 18, United States Code), or was an attempt or conspiracy to commit such an offense."

In 2016, the Attorney General issued Supplemental Juvenile Registration Guidelines to provide guidance on the juvenile registration requirement under SORNA. Under the Supplemental Juvenile Registration Guidelines, when determining if a jurisdiction has substantially implemented SORNA, the SMART Office can consider a jurisdiction’s policies and practices to 1) prosecute as adults juveniles who commit serious sex offenses, 2) register juveniles adjudicated delinquent for serious sex offenses and 3) track, monitor or manage juveniles adjudicated delinquent for serious sex offenses.

SORNA applies to all sex offenders, including those convicted of their registration offenses prior to the enactment of SORNA (July 27, 2006) or prior to particular jurisdictions’ incorporation of the SORNA requirements into their programs. Jurisdictions are specifically required to register such sex offenders if they remain in the system as prisoners, supervisees or registrants, or if they later re-enter the system because of conviction for some other crime (whether or not the new crime is a sex offense). See Part II.C and IX of the Final Guidelines for more details.

Foreign convictions require sex offenders to be registered under SORNA unless the foreign conviction "was not obtained with sufficient safeguards for fundamental fairness and due process for the accused." The Final Guidelines establish rules for determining if legal processes in foreign countries meet the standard required under SORNA.

Tribal convictions are treated the same as other jurisdictional convictions under SORNA, which requires registration for anyone convicted of a sex offense. This includes "a State, local, tribal, foreign, or military offense ... or other criminal offense" (see 34 U.S.C. § 20911(6)).

No. SORNA establishes a national baseline for sex offender registration and notification programs. It constitutes a set of minimum national standards for jurisdictions. For example, a jurisdiction may have a system that requires registration by broader classes of convicted offenders than those identified in SORNA. A jurisdiction may require verification of registration information by sex offenders with greater frequency than SORNA requires. A jurisdiction may require sex offenders to register for longer periods than those required by the SORNA standards. Per the Attorney General’s Final Guidelines, the SMART Office may approve a jurisdiction’s implementation efforts that do not exactly follow all specifications of SORNA or the guidelines if those efforts do not substantially disserve a requirement’s objectives.

The SMART Office’s senior policy advisors are available to review legislation and court decisions to determine if they impact a jurisdiction’s SORNA implementation status. Email [email protected] or call 202-514-4689 for assistance.

If a jurisdiction has not substantially implemented SORNA as determined by the SMART Office, the jurisdiction's next fiscal year Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant will be reduced by 10%. Jurisdictions can apply to have their funds reinstated for the sole purpose of implementing SORNA. Reallocation requests must be submitted in writing to the SMART Office by the end of the calendar year, following this guidance.

 

Under SORNA, the SMART Office provides several registry and public website tools at no cost. SMART provides a registry tool for states and territories (Sex Offender Registry Tool and a hosted registry program for tribes and territories (Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registry System). The SMART Office also provides a platform for information sharing among jurisdictions (the SORNA Exchange Portal). Contact the SMART Office at [email protected] for more information.

The SMART Office provides technical assistance to states, the District of Columbia, local governments, territories, tribal governments and other public and private entities related to sex offender registration and notification, grants and financial management, and SMART-provided information technology programs.

To request technical assistance from the SMART Office, please fill out this request form and email it to [email protected] or call 202-514-4689 for more information.

SORNA Tribal Considerations

Under 34. U.S.C. § 20929 of the Adam Walsh Act, federally recognized Indian tribes not subject to the criminal jurisdiction of a state under 18 U.S.C. § 1162 are entitled to elect whether to carry out the requirements of this section or delegate the functions to the state(s) in which the tribal land is located. Newly federally recognized tribes also have the option to elect to be a SORNA tribe or to delegate the functions to the state.

SORNA provides that if the Attorney General determines a tribe has not substantially implemented the law’s requirements by the deadline and is not likely to be able to do so within “a reasonable amount of time,” then the sex offender registry function may be delegated to the state.

The Department of Justice accepts applications for the Tribal Access Program on an annual basis, usually in the fall. More information about the program is available at the Tribal Access Program webpage. Or email [email protected] for more information.

Under SORNA, the SMART Office provides several registry and notification tools at no cost. SMART provides a hosted registry program for tribes and territories (Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registry System). The SMART Office also provides a platform for information sharing among jurisdictions (the SORNA Exchange Portal). Contact the SMART Office at [email protected] for more information.