NACDL - Sex Offenses

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Sex Offenses

NACDL recognizes that sex offenses cause great pain and suffering to victims and their families. However, society’s outrage and condemnation should not impair the need to make criminal justice policy decisions based upon facts, sound scientific research, and evidence.

NACDL opposes sex offender registration and community notification laws but also believes that if such laws are enacted they should classify offenders with full due process of law. Determination of offender risk must also allow for reasonable opportunities to seek relief from registration.

Determination of offender risk must be based upon the individual characteristics of the offender and not solely on the offense for which the offender was convicted, and there must be reasonable opportunities to seek relief from registration. Restrictions and collateral consequences on sex offenders are too often the result of knee-jerk politics rather than careful consideration of the efficacy, appropriate scope and potential negative consequences. Because of the severe penalties and other life-altering consequences, sex offenses should be narrowly tailored and contain meaningful intent requirements.

Links to resources on sex offenses and possible reform are available below: 

Federal Resources

Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, Public Law 109–248 (federal sex offender law intended to standardize various aspects of state sex offender laws; imposes 10% cut in federal law enforcement grants for states failing to substantially comply with sex offender registration provisions by the deadline)

"The Scarlet Letter of the Law: The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006," The Champion, Nov. 2006.

In 2012, the House of Representatives passed legislation to reauthorize the Adam Walsh Act but at the same time ameliorate the draconian registration requirements for juvenile sex offenders.  The reauthorization bill would give states the discretion to exclude juveniles from public sex offender registries and would reduce the time juvenile offenders must remain on the SORNA registry, from 25 years to 15 years, before being permitted to petition the court for removal.  The bill also requires a study of the impact of juvenile sex offender registration.  The Senate did not take up the measure in 2012, but legislative action is likely this year.

Congress passed the Child Protection Act of 2012, Public Law 112–206, in late 2012.  Among other things, the law doubles the statutory maximum penalty from 10 to 20 years for simple possession of child pornography where the material depicts a prepubescent minor.

Federal Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification 

National Conference on State Legislatures (NCSL) – overview of state compliance & other resources

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