SORNA is the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which is Title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-248). SORNA is codified at 34 U.S.C. § 20901 et seq. SORNA provides a comprehensive set of minimum standards for sex offender registration and notification in the United States. SORNA aims to close potential gaps and loopholes that existed under prior law and generally strengthens the nationwide network of sex offender registration and notification programs. Additionally, SORNA does the following:
- Extends the jurisdictions in which registration is required to include federally recognized Indian tribes, in addition to states, the District of Columbia and the principal U.S. territories.
- Incorporates a more comprehensive group of sex offenders and sex offenses for which registration is required.
- Requires sex offenders to register and keep their registration current in each jurisdiction where they live, work or go to school.
- Requires sex offenders to provide more extensive registration information.
- Requires sex offenders to make periodic in-person appearances to verify and update their registration information.
- Expands the information available to the public regarding registered sex offenders.
- Makes changes in the required minimum duration of registration for sex offenders.
Legislation That Amended SORNA
Keeping the Internet Devoid of Predators Act (KIDS Act). To address the issue of online safety, the 2008 KIDS Act made the following changes to SORNA —
- Required jurisdictions to collect sex offenders' internet identifiers in the registration process.
- Exempted posting of internet identifiers on any registration jurisdiction's public sex offender registry website.
Military Sex Offender Reporting Act. As part of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, and as an amendment to SORNA, these sections —
- Required the Department of Defense to submit information on any sex offender convicted via court-martial to NSOR and NSOPW.
International Megan's Law. To address international travel by registered sex offenders, this 2016 law mandated the following —
- Required offenders to provide advance notice of any intended international travel.
- Required jurisdictions to submit international travel information. (See the Information Required for Notice of International Travel below for more details.)
Attorney General Guidelines
In addition to SORNA’s codified requirements, the Attorney General has issued guidelines and a rule to assist jurisdictions with implementation of the law, and the SMART Office has issued implementation documentation with additional guidance. Jurisdictions should use these documents, along with the statute (P.L. 109-248) and the guidelines and regulations issued by the Attorney General, when developing legislation and policies to substantially implement SORNA.
The Attorney General issued these Supplemental Juvenile Registration Guidelines to provide guidance regarding the substantial implementation of the juvenile registration requirement under SORNA.
Effective date: August 1, 2016
The Attorney General issued these Supplemental Guidelines to address a number of issues related to implementation of the SORNA requirements, including public website posting of sex offender information such as email addresses and other internet identifiers, public notification of juveniles adjudicated delinquent for serious sex crimes, international travel reporting requirements and the treatment of Indian tribes newly recognized by the federal government subsequent to the enactment of SORNA.
Effective date: January 11, 2011
The Attorney General issued these Final Guidelines to interpret and implement SORNA. The Final Guidelines provide jurisdictions with guidance, explanation and advice regarding the administration and implementation of SORNA.
Effective date: July 2, 2008
The Attorney General issued this Rule to provide a concise and comprehensive statement of what sex offenders must do to comply with SORNA's requirements.
Effective date: January 7, 2022
Retroactive Applicability of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA)
The Attorney General published this Rule to specify that SORNA applies retroactively to all sex offenders, including sex offenders convicted of the offense for which registration is required before the enactment of SORNA.
SORNA Implementation Documents
The SMART Office has developed a series of documents related to SORNA. These documents provide further definition, guidance and direction on a number of topics to assist jurisdictions with the implementation of SORNA.
SORNA implementation documents address the following topics:
- Substantial Implementation of SORNA
- Byrne JAG Grant Reductions under SORNA
- In Person Verification
- Community Notification Requirements of SORNA
- Using Risk Assessment Under SORNA
- Determination of Residence, Homeless Offenders and Transient Workers
- Text of Registration Offense
- Military Convictions Under SORNA
- Fingerprints and Palm Prints
- Registering Tribal Convictions under SORNA
- State and Tribal Information Sharing
- Clarification of Registration Jurisdictional Issues
- Tribal Election, Delegation to the State and Right of Access
- Information Required for Notice of International Travel
- Juvenile Registration and Notification Requirements Under SORNA
Applicability and Offenses
The 50 states, the District of Columbia, the 5 principal U.S. territories and federally recognized Indian tribes that elect to function as registration jurisdictions are all defined as "jurisdictions" under SORNA. "Jurisdiction," as used by SORNA, does not include counties, cities, towns or other political subdivisions located within states, tribes or territories. However, this definition does not limit the ability of states, tribes or territories to carry out these functions through their political subdivisions or other entities within the jurisdiction.
SORNA refers to the persons required to register under its standards as "sex offenders," and SORNA defines "sex offender" to mean "an individual who was convicted of a sex offense."
The convictions for which SORNA requires registration include convictions for sex offenses by any U.S. jurisdiction, including convictions for sex offenses under federal, military, state, territorial, tribal or local law. Foreign convictions are also covered if certain conditions are satisfied.
Generally speaking, the following are considered sex offenses under SORNA.
A criminal offense against a minor that involves any of the following:
- Non-Parental kidnapping
- Non-Parental false imprisonment
- Solicitation to engage in sexual conduct
- Use in a sexual performance
- Solicitation to practice prostitution
- Video voyeurism
- Possession, production, or distribution of child pornography
- Criminal sexual conduct involving a minor
- Use of the internet to facilitate criminal sexual conduct involving a minor
- Any conduct that by its nature is a sex offense against a minor
- 18 U.S.C. §1591 (Sex Trafficking of Children)
- 18 U.S.C. §2241 (Aggravated Sexual Abuse)
- 18 U.S.C. §2242 (Sexual Abuse)
- 18 U.S.C. §2243 (Sexual Abuse of a Minor or Ward)
- 18 U.S.C. §2244 (Abusive Sexual Contact)
- 18 U.S.C. §2245 (Offenses Resulting in Death)
- 18 U.S.C. §2251 (Sexual Exploitation of Children)
- 18 U.S.C. §2251A (Selling or Buying of Children)
- 18 U.S.C. §2252 (Material Involving the Sexual Exploitation of Minors)
- 18 U.S.C. §2252A (Material Containing Child Pornography)
- 18 U.S.C. §2252B (Misleading Domain Names on the Internet)
- 18 U.S.C. §2252C (Misleading Words or Digital Images on the Internet)
- 18 U.S.C. §2260 (Production of Sexually Explicit Depictions of a Minor for Import in to the United States)
- 18 U.S.C. §2421 (Transportation of a Minor for Illegal Sexual Activity)
- 18 U.S.C. §2422 (Coercion and Enticement of a Minor for Illegal Sexual Activity)
- 18 U.S.C. §2423 (Transportation of Minors for Illegal Sexual Activity, Travel With the Intent to Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct with a Minor, Engaging in Illicit Sexual Conduct in Foreign Places)
- 18 U.S.C. §2424 (Failure to File Factual Statement about an Alien Individual)
- 18 U.S.C. §2425 (Transmitting Information about a Minor to further Criminal Sexual Conduct)
These include criminal offenses that have an element involving a sexual act or sexual contact with another. The offenses covered include all sexual offenses whose elements involve: (i) any type or degree of genital, oral, or anal penetration, or (ii) any sexual touching of or contact with a person’s body, either directly or through the clothing.
These include sex offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, as specified by the Secretary of Defense. These offenses are primarily located at 34 U.S.C. § 20931.
These include attempts and conspiracies to commit offenses that are otherwise covered by the definition of "sex offenses."
See Part IV A-D of the Final Guidelines for more detail.
SORNA section 111(5)(C) addresses the minimum standards for requiring sex offender registration for consensual sexual conduct under the Adam Walsh Act. SORNA does not require registration in the following situations: 1) If both participants are adults, and neither is under the custodial authority of the other (e.g., inmate/prison guard) and the conduct was consensual, then this conduct does not constitute a registerable sex offense for purposes of the Adam Walsh Act. 2) With respect to acts involving at least one minor (person under 18) who engages in consensual sexual conduct, the following minimum standards apply: Where both participants are at least 13 years old and neither participant is more than 4 years older than the other, a sex offense conviction based on consensual sexual conduct does not require registration under the Adam Walsh Act. In all situations, jurisdictions have discretion to exceed the minimum standards of SORNA and require registration upon convictions based on consensual sexual conduct.
A sex offender is "convicted" for SORNA purposes if the sex offender has been subject to penal consequences based on the conviction, however it may be styled. Likewise, the sealing of a criminal record or other action that limits the publicity or availability of conviction information, but does not deprive the conviction of continuing legal validity, does not change its status as a "conviction" for purposes of SORNA.
"Convictions" for SORNA purposes include convictions of juveniles who are prosecuted as adults. It does not include juvenile delinquency adjudications, except under the circumstances specified in 34 U.S.C. §20911(8), which stipulate juvenile registration only if the juvenile was at least 14 years old at the time of the offense and was adjudicated delinquent for committing (or attempting or conspiring to commit) a sexual act with another by force, by the threat of serious violence, or by rendering unconscious or drugging the victim.
See Part IV.A of the Final Guidelines for more detail.