Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act

Compliance News 

As of April 2014, the Justice Department reports that 17 states, three territories and 63 tribes had substantially implemented SORNA (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act) requirements of the federal Adam Walsh Act. July 27, 2011 was the implementation deadline for the comprehensive national system for the registration of sex offenders. The Department’s SMART (Sex Offender Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking) office that administers SORNA requirements identified these jurisdictions as meeting the compliance deadline:

States of Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming, and the United States territory of Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been found by the SMART office to be in compliance. Read the Justice Department reviews of substantial implementation for each state or territory.

State Legislation

State legislation on sex offenders, including SORNA related enactments, can be found in NCSL's database housing 2008 through 2014 enactments. Other SORNA related state legislation was enacted in 2007

The June 2011 NCSL's State Legislatures magazine includes a feature article, "Down to the Wire", which discusses state compliance efforts and concerns with SORNA. 

Other SORNA State Activity and Resources

  • The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that imposing enhanced sex offender registration and community notification requirements included in the state's 2007 Ohio Adam Walsh Act (AWA) against defendants whose crimes were committed before the effective date of that law violates Section 28, Article II of the Ohio Constitution, which prohibits the General Assembly from enacting retroactive laws. Ruling in the State v. Williams case was released July 12, 2011.  Previously, in 2010, the Ohio Supreme Court in State v. Bodyke  ruled portions of the Ohio SORNA law invalid, stating they violate separation of powers doctrine.   

  • Cost-Benefit Analyses of SORNA Implementation
  • Colorado Sex Offender Management Board, White Paper on Adam Walsh, 2008
  • California Sex Offender Management Board, Adam Walsh Act Statement of Position, 2009
  • Texas Senate Study on Compliance, 2010
  • Medical University of South Carolina, Evaluation of Effectiveness of Registration and Notification (National Institute of Justice funded), 2010

Byrne/JAG State Dollars and Estimated Penalties

This chart shows the Edward Byrne memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funds by state, FY 2010 enacted and FY2011 President’s budget; and estimated 10 percent funding loss, by state, for SORNA non-compliance.

Supreme Court Rules on SORNA Retroactivity Rule

On June 1,2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled on the United States v. Carr. Read a summary of the ruling. This case, Carr v. United States No. 08-1301, was granted review by the United States Supreme Court on Wednesday, September 30, 2009. The case challenges the interim rule promulgated by the Department of Justice SMART office in February, 2007 which requires states to retroactively apply SORNA to criminal defendants who re-enter the criminal justice system for any offense, even when the prior offense predated the enactment of SORNA.

The petitioner in the case is a convicted sex offender whose offense and sentence occurred in Alabama and predated the enactment of SORNA in 2006. Prior to the enactment of SORNA, the petitioner moved to Indiana and did not register in that state as a sex offender. Subsequent to the enactment of SORNA and pursuant to the requirements of SORNA, the petitioner was arrested and sentenced for failure to register in Indiana and sentenced under the enhanced penalty provisions of SORNA. He now challenges the applicability of SORNA to his case.

At issue are (1) whether SORNA applies to persons whose underlying offense and travel in interstate commerce predated its enactment, and (2) if the answer to the first question is yes, whether that application of SORNA violates the Ex Post Facto Clause.

U.S. Department of Justice’s Brief in Opposition 

The Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs has released a fact sheet in response to the one-year extension.

Federal Guidelines and Updates

 Federal Funds Information for States (FFIS) Issue Brief discusses compliance, penalties and reallocation of Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funding.  Issue Brief 13-17, June 7, 2013, DOJ Updates State Progress on SORNA Compliance, Penalties.

United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) releases report February 2013 -- Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act: Jurisdictions Face Challenges to Implementing the Act, and Stakeholders Report Positive and Negative Effects.  This review finds non-implementing states face challenges in reconciling state laws to federal requirements, including but not limited to juvenile provisions; in complying with retroactivity requirements; in projected costs and budget restraints; and with preference in some states for risk-based classifications rather than SORNA’s conviction-based tier system.  In states that have substantially implemented SORNA, review finds benefits of improved information sharing about and monitoring of offenders.  The report cites negative effects of tier system not considering re-offense risk; increased workloads, and impaired ability of registrants to reintegrate into community.  Larger effects on public safety are largely unstudied, GAO said.

On July 18, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives approved reauthorization of the Adam Walsh Act (H.R. 3796).  The legislation, which included four passed amendments, was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 2. 

Jurisdictions that did not substantially implement SORNA by July 27, 2011, will see a 10 percent reduction of the jurisdiction's Byrne/JAG funding when the FY 2012 awards are made.  According to the SMART office, jurisdictions may request reacquire of those funds to dedicate solely toward SORNA implementation.  See the SMART office for more information on required written request.

On May 14, 2010, the SMART Office issued supplemental SORNA guidelines.  Read NCSL's summary of those guidelines.  Final supplemental guidelines published January 11, 2011.

The blanket time extension granted by the Attorney General in 2009 expired July 27, 2010.  As of July 27, 2010, 237 registration jurisdictions had requested and received extensions until July 27, 2011, to substantially implement SORNA.

The final SORNA guidelines pursuant to the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, were released on July 2, 2008. See the NCSL summary (updated January 2009) and SMART web page for full text of the final guidelines and other information.

States must comply with Title I Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) provisions of the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, or face a 10 percent reduction to federal law enforcement assistance grants. The act mandates information that must be collected; defines tiers of sex offenders for the purpose of registration duration; requires periodic, including in-person, verification of registration information; requires internet-based information that contributes to a national registry; other related requirements.

Meeting Summaries

National Criminal Justice Association webinar, February 3, 2012, “Remaining Barriers to SORNA Compliance: A Conversation with the SMART Office & Implementing States.”   Features Linda Baldwin, SMART Office Director; Representative Pat Colloton of Kansas; Senator Joni Cutler of South Dakota and Assemblyman William Horne of Nevada. 

At the 2010 NCSL Legislative Summit in Louisville, the NCSL Law and Criminal Justice Committee heard about sex offender registration legislation in three states related to federal SORNA requirements and about state responses to SORNA from a child safety advocate. (The full session video and a summary of the session is on the NCSL web-site.)

Law and Criminal Justice Committee Meets with SMART Director - April 25, 2008

NCSL Law and Criminal Justice Committee Meets with SMART Officials - May 9, 2007 


Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART) Office of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice

National Criminal Justice Association, “Remaining Barriers to Compliance: A Discussion with the SMART Office," February 3, 2012 webinar summary and web cast archive

National Center on Missing and Exploited Children, 2012 survey of numbers of registered sex offenders

NCSL's Criminal Justice Program is in Denver, Colorado, at (303) 364-7700; or NCSL's Law and Criminal Justice Federal Affairs Counsel in Washington, D.C., is at (202) 624-5400, ext. 3566.

Updated May 7, 2014