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As movements like #MeToo gain steam and people become increasingly aware of what's going on in society, sex crimes are receiving renewed attention. Although most people are aware that sex offenders need to register themselves, they may not know exactly how the process works.
Sex crimes are offenses that are sexual in nature. All of these crimes should be treated with equal consideration and care because of how they traumatize and injure victims. The law classifies individual actions under different misdemeanor and felony statuses due to their perceived severity and victim impacts.
Sex offenders include anyone who was:
Federal law defines many sex crimes, including rape and sexual assault, in 10 U.S. Code § 920. This law also includes important concepts that help guide courts and officials about whether offenses that aren't explicitly listed might also count as sex crimes. For instance:
Another critical federal statute is the 2006 Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, or SORNA. This law was instituted to help reduce the chances that sex offenders might find loopholes. It also instituted new rules regarding the registration of and notification about sex offenders.
Under SORNA, sex offenders need to register in official sex offender databases connected to the national sex offender registration system whenever they:
Neglecting to register or update existing registrations in line with the SORNA requirements is a federal offense that may carry penalties of up to a decade of imprisonment or fines. Someone who fails to register or update his or her information and then commits a violent federal crime might risk a 30-year prison sentence if convicted. Sex offenders can also be prosecuted for failing to register or update their information and then traveling internationally, across state lines, or on Indian reservations.
Even though SORNA is a federal law, it focuses on creating more general standards and guidelines for others to follow. The bulk of the work involved in creating, operating, and maintaining sex offender registry and database programs is left to lower-level bodies, such as the individual states, Indian tribal governments, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.
As a result, different regions may maintain varying requirements for people who have to register as sex offenders. For instance, in the state of Washington, people have to register before beginning college classes or working. They also have to register when their job or schooling ends. The state requires:
Depending on the crime someone commits, he or she may also be asked to provide a DNA sample. Refusing to do so could count as a misdemeanor. These laws may also apply to kidnapping offenders.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act that gave rise to SORNA defines three sex offender classifications known as tiers.
Tier III is reserved for offenders convicted of crimes that are punishable by more than one year of imprisonment even if they didn't receive that sentence. These crimes must be at least as severe as the sexual abuse of or sexual contact with minors below the age of 13, certain non-parental kidnapping acts, and sex crimes committed by someone who already reached Tier II status. Tier III requires lifelong registration.
Tier II offenders have also committed crimes punishable by more than one year in prison. These crimes often relate to child pornography, performance, or prostitution. Tier II also applies to violations at least as severe as sex trafficking, sexual abuse, sexual coercion or enticement, and offenses committed after Tier I convictions. Convicts must register on sex offender lists for 25 years.
Tier I offenders don't fall into Tier II or Tier III. They have to register for 15 years.
Individual states also have their own schemes. For instance, Massachusetts defines three levels based on offenders' perceived danger to the public and risk of re-offending. Someone's level of classification may also determine whether his or her information is publicly available.
Sex crimes have different meanings in different jurisdictions. Those who have been the victim of a sex crime or accused of a sex crime may benefit from speaking with a knowledgeable attorney.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified sex crime lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local sex crime attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.