U.S. Issues Modifications to Sex-Offender Web Posting

The notice is “to provide guidance and assistance to jurisdictions in implementing the SORNA standards in their sex offender registration and notification programs.”
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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued modifications to local sex-offender registries that guide public website posting of sex-offender information.

A notice—Supplemental Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification (SORNA)—was published on the Federal Register on Jan. 11, 2011, the same date the guidelines became effective. The notice is “to provide guidance and assistance to jurisdictions in implementing the SORNA standards in their sex offender registration and notification programs.”

The “supplemental guidelines augment or modify certain features of the SORNA guidelines” and to address other issues arising in jurisdictions’ implementation of the SORNA requirements.” Those issues include aspects of public website posting of sex offender information; inter-jurisdictional tracking and information sharing regarding sex offenders; the review process concerning jurisdictions’ SORNA implementation; the classes of sex offenders to be registered by jurisdictions retroactively; and the treatment of Indian tribes newly recognized by the federal government subsequent to the enactment of SORNA.

The SORNA standards are administered by the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (“SMART Office”), which assists all jurisdictions in their SORNA implementation efforts and determines whether jurisdictions have successfully completed these efforts, the notice says.

Since the publication of the SORNA guidelines, issues have arisen concerning the implementation of the guidelines, consequently the DOJ solicited public comment on supplemental guidelines addressing those issues (the public comment period closed on July 13, 2010), and the areas covered by the modifications are:

  • Allowing jurisdictions, at their discretion, to exempt information from public website posting because a sex offender is required to register on the basis of juvenile delinquency adjudications.
  • Require jurisdictions to exempt sex offenders’ e-mail addresses and other Internet identifiers from public Web site posting.
  • Require jurisdictions have sex offenders report international travel 21 days in advance of such travel and to submit information concerning such travel to the appropriate federal agencies and databases.
  • Clarify the means to be utilized to ensure consistent inter-jurisdictional information sharing and tracking of sex offenders.
  • Expand required registration information to include the forms signed by sex offenders acknowledging that they were advised of their registration obligations.
  • Provide additional information concerning the review process for determining that jurisdictions have substantially implemented the SORNA requirements in their programs and continue to comply with these requirements.
  • Afford jurisdictions greater latitude regarding the registration of sex offenders who have fully exited the justice system but later reenter through a new (non-sex-offense) criminal conviction by providing that jurisdictions may limit such registration to cases in which the new conviction is for a felony.
  • Provide, for Indian tribes that are newly recognized by the federal government following the enactment of SORNA, authorization and time frames for such tribes to elect whether to become SORNA registration jurisdictions and to implement SORNA.