Juvenile Sex Offender Registration and SORNA

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NCSL Contacts

May 2011

The new requirements placed on juveniles under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) are among the most controversial of the Act. SORNA is a portion of the Adam Walsh Child Protection Act, signed into law in 2006. States will lose 10 percent of the federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grant if they are not in compliance by July 27, 2011. SORNA requires juveniles at least 14 years of age adjudicated delinquent for a crime comparable to or more severe than an aggravated sexual abuse crime as defined in federal law to register as sex offenders.

When comparing current juvenile sex offender registry laws with what is required under the Act, at least 37 states have statutory law requiring sex offender registration of some juveniles adjudicated delinquent for qualifying offenses. Those states are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Among these states, approximately ten require registration if the juvenile is determined to have committed a specified sex offense, generally including violent sex offenses, sex offenses against children, and kidnapping. Existing laws would meet the juvenile requirements under SORNA. Of these states, seven have been found to be compliant with the Act in its entirety (Delaware, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, South Dakota and Wyoming); these states’ registries are obviously OK under SORNA.

In at least 27 states and one territory, sex offender registration law requires that juvenile adjudicated delinquent must register if they commit a sex offense for which an adult in the same jurisdiction would be required to register. These states could possibly meet SORNA requirements. Ten other states (Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin) give courts discretion to weigh fact-specific circumstances to determine whether registration will be required of an adjudicated juvenile. Offense alone would not automatically trigger registration requirement and courts are allowed to determine if circumstances specific to the young person and the case make registration necessary in the public interest. These provisions would likely be a barrier to the SORNA juvenile provisions required of states.

A total of fifteen jurisdictions, (Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico) do not require any adjudicated juveniles to register as a sex offender. (While juveniles who are transferred to and convicted in adult court usually are treated as adults also for purposed of sex offender registration.) These jurisdictions would likely face a barrier to compliance unless their laws are changed.