By Alicia Linzmeier
The Supplemental Guidelines for Juvenile Registration Under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which became effective on Monday, provide for greater flexibility of jurisdictions in how they choose to substantially implement the juvenile registration requirement of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).
The proposed guidelines were published in the Federal Register in mid-April to allow for public comments that could highlight changes that individuals and organizations viewed as necessary before the final version was published.
The final version states that jurisdictions that do not register juveniles to the exact specifications of SORNA may still be determined to have substantially implemented the registration requirement if their policies and practices have resulted or will result in registration of juveniles who commit serious sex offenses and in the availability of the identities and offenses of those juveniles for public safety purposes in a manner that does not substantially disserve SORNA’s objectives.
As a result, compliance can take many forms, and jurisdictions that were previously considered to be out of compliance could now potentially be compliant, even without changing their policies and practices. They would then have access to the federal justice assistance funding that they lost as a penalty for noncompliance.
Many of the comments received before the final publication of the guidelines came from individuals and entities concerned with registration requirements for juveniles who have committed sex offenses, and therefore advocated for the removal of such requirements.
However, the attorney general does not have the authority to do so, because the requirements are a matter of federal law, rather than a regulation of the Justice Department.
Other individuals and groups advocated for the inclusion of language that supports providing juveniles with evidence-based treatment services and the exclusion of language that promotes the waiver of juvenile defendants to the adult criminal justice system.
The attorney general's office contends that the proposed guidelines already consider policies to manage juveniles who have committed serious sex offenses, which can include evidence-based treatments, and that the guidelines do not promote the practice of trying juveniles in adult courts, but recognize that many states have policies in place to do so.
Though 26 comments were received before the final guidelines were published, the attorney general's office said that none of them provided any persuasive reason to change the proposed guidelines or delay their finalization.
Alicia Linzmeier is an intern with NCSL's Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee.