DOJ Announces Proposed New Regulations for National Sex Offender Registration

August 17, 2020 Updated: August 17, 2020

The Justice Department (DOJ) has announced proposed new regulations that detail how convicted sex offenders should register under the national registration system, in an effort to ensure reporting to the registry is adequately enforced.

The federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) requires convicted sex offenders to register in the states in which they live, work, or attend school. Congress enacted the national sex offender registry in 2006 in a bid to strengthen the nation’s sex offender registration programs and to help law enforcement effectively track convicted sex offenders as they move around the country.

It was enacted as part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.

As part of the legislation, Congress left it to the attorney general to issue regulations and guidelines to enforce SORNA and to decide on guidelines on how to apply the law before it was enacted. The DOJ published the proposed regulations on Aug. 13 and is requesting public comments until October.

The proposed regulations set out the specific information that convicted sex offenders need to provide to registration authorities, including name, birth date, and Social Security number, information about places of residence, employment, school attendance, vehicle and license details, as well as details of passports and immigration documents and of international travel.

Requiring registered sex offenders to report travel abroad would help address the global concern over international sex tourism and trafficking, the DOJ stated.

The proposed regulations “will enhance the enforcement of registration and notification across the country and ensure that information about sex offenders in the community is available to law enforcement and the public,” Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy Beth A. Williams said.

“The proposed regulations will further Congress’s and the Department’s shared goal of ensuring that convicted sex offenders are accounted for under the law,” she said in a statement.

One of the key aims of SORNA is to close potential gaps and loopholes under prior laws, the DOJ stated. The purpose of the national registration system is to help authorities and the public monitor and track sex offenders following their release into the community in order to combat sex crime and crimes against children.

The system makes information such as the name, current location, and past offenses of a convicted sex offender available to local and federal authorities and the public. Currently, all 50 states and the District of Columbia operate some form of public notification registration system for convicted sex offenders.

Under the law, Congress gave the attorney general the authority to issue a rule to specify that SORNA registration requirements would apply to all offenders prior to the enactment of the law. This requirement was challenged in a case that was reviewed by the Supreme Court. The high court ruled in 2019 that Congress didn’t act improperly when it delegated the power to decide how SORNA’s requirements would apply to pre-act offenders.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan