What Is The National Sex Offender Registry?
In this article
The National Sex Offender Registry includes information such as the identity and location of known sex offenders from all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C., the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Native American tribal lands.
Although the National Sex Offender Registry is only available to law enforcement and the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, the Department of Justice maintains the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW). This website includes links to the websites that citizens can use to search for the location of registered sex offenders. Federal, state, and local governments argue that this information will help keep the public, particularly children, safe.
Generally, anyone convicted of sexually violent offenses and certain other sexual acts or crimes against children are included on the registry. The Adam Walsh Act requires those convicted of committing sexual offenses, defined as criminal offenses with an element involving sexual acts or sexual contact, to register.
While different states have different requirements as to what information to include on the National Sex Offender Registry, there are certain pieces of information that all registered sex offenders must provide. This includes:
- Names and any aliases
- Residence information like addresses and telephone numbers
- Travel and immigration documents
- Employer name and address and other employment information
- Professional licenses
- School information
- Vehicle information
- Physical description and current photograph
- Description of registration offense and a criminal history
- Fingerprints, palm prints, and DNA
- Driver's license or state identification card
Offenders must also include temporary residence information. It is thought that sex offenders might be more likely to commit a crime when they are traveling if they only have to report their primary residence address. Therefore, they should also report the location of any temporary residences such as a hotel or a relative's home
where they are staying.
In July 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) issued National Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification. The guidelines were written to assist states in implementing the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 2006 (SORNA). SORNA set the minimum standards that states must comply with when setting up their own sex offender registries.
SORNA establishes three groups or tiers of sex offenders. Each tier indicates how long a person remains on the registry, the frequency with which the convicted sex offender needs to check-in and verify the information on the registry, and the information that is included on the registry. The national guidelines make clear that states can always exceed SORNA requirements.
At all times, the Sex Offender Registry must carefully balance the safety of the public with the constitutional rights of registered sex offenders. Some, but not all of the information collected by the Sex Offender Registry is available to the public on the National Sex Offender website. For example, the website does not share Social Security numbers.
You can conduct your own national sex offender search by finding the link to your state or area on the National Sex Offender Public Website. When you get to the website you need, select "I agree" to the conditions of use, enter the information in the search form, and then select "search."