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Federal Laws on Sex Crimes and Sex Offender Registries

metal prison bars with handcuffs on black backgroundSex crimes are generally governed by state law, but there are numerous federal laws providing the federal government with jurisdiction over a number of sex crimes. These federal sex crimes often involve interstate traffic and thus examples include possessing or distributing child pornography, transporting children over state lines for the purpose of committing sexual acts, and prostitution involving interstate traffic.

As with many other state sex crimes, individuals convicted of federal sex crimes will be required to register with all applicable sex offender registries, due to the requirements of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), a federal law. While you may picture a single “sex offender registry,” there are actually many different sex offender registries in the US, although federal law and federal resources play a huge role in connecting these various registries.

The Rise of Sex Offender Registries

After the media began widespread reportage of sex crimes and abuse in the 1970s and 1980s, states began making their sex offender databases available to the public in the 1990s, and requiring those convicted of sexual offenses to register with the states, even if the crimes had occurred elsewhere. In 1994, Congress passed a law mandating that all states create and maintain sex offender registries or risk losing federal crime prevention funds. Accordingly, all 50 states and the District of Columbia now have sex offender registries in place requiring convicted sex offenders to register with the state. In addition, many counties, municipalities and tribes have set up their own registries.

The Adam Walsh Prevention Act of 2006

As a result of all of these different sex offender registries with various requirements and standards, some felt that the sex offender registries were not as useful as they could be, and that some people avoided being on the lists where they lived based on this. The federal government again stepped in to pass the Adam Walsh Prevention Act of 2006 (named after the son of John Walsh, host of America’s Most Wanted, who lobbied for the bill), which, among other things, included SORNA. This law provided uniform minimum requirements that certain offenders be required to register in any state they live in, regardless of where the offense occurred.

The National Sex Offender Registry and the National Sex Offender Public Website

The federal government maintains two main databases related to sex offenders. The first is the National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR), which is the database maintained by the FBI in tracking sex offenders across the country. This database is not publicly available but is used by law enforcement. The second is the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW). This is not a database per se, but rather a single portal through which members of the public can search all state, local, and tribal databases through a single search for records related to a potential sex offender. Thus it is easier than ever for members of the public, including neighbors, friends, potential employers, and others to search publicly for information related to a past sexual offense. Note that different states have different standards for what they make publicly available (e.g. some states only make more records of more serious crimes publicly available), but sex crimes against children are generally always required to be made publicly available.

Work with an Experienced Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorney

Whether you’ve been convicted of a sex crime in the past or are under arrest or investigation for a sex crime, the implications of being on the various sex offender registries are vast. For more information about what it means to register as a sex offender, or to develop an aggressive defense to your sex crimes charges, call our team to speak with an experienced Oklahoma defense attorney.

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