Many complex regulations are surrounding the registration process and the constant updating of one’s registration as a sex offender. The penalties for failure to register or update one’s registration can be severe.

There are a series of federal, state, and local agencies working in concert to meticulously inspect the registry and ensure all information is accurate and up to date.

The penalties for failure to register or update registration (which can be found below) can be extremely harsh. Contact us today and get an experienced attorney on your side.

Laws Governing Sex Offender Registration

Title 1 of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006

A sex offender registration process was established to tie up possible loopholes in existence under previous laws. This system, established under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), requires that all 50 states, DC, U.S territories, and recognized Indian tribes, comply with the federal standards outlined within.

According to 18 U.S.C. § 2250

It is a federal offense for a sex offender required to register under SORNA, to knowingly fail to register or update registration information. Offenders convicted under state law are similarly subject to prosecution under this statute if an offender travels interstate while knowingly failing to register or update registration information.

A violation of this statute carries a penalty that includes fines and imprisonment not to exceed ten years. Additionally, if an individual violates this statute and subsequently commits a violent federal crime, the penalty is a maximum of thirty (30) years of imprisonment.

The agency tasked with enforcing SORNA is the Department of Justice (DOJ). Within the DOJ, the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) is responsible for investigating and prosecuting individuals violating SORNA. CEOS work in tandem with the High Technology Investigative Unit (HTIU), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the various U.S. Attorney’s Offices.

Tier Classifications

SORNA provides for a three-tiered classification system for sex offenders. Jurisdictions may determine an offender’s tier based on the elements of the offense. Some of the tier classifications are dependent on the age of the victim. The three-tier system is laid out in detail in 42 U.S.C. § 16911.

Tier I offenders

Tier I offenders are any sex offender that does not fall within Tier II or Tier III. This sex offender classification lasts for fifteen (15) years but may be concluded in ten (10) years if the offender satisfies four requirements. First, the offender must not be convicted of a subsequent offense that carries a prison sentence of more than one year.

The offender must not be convicted of any subsequent sexual offenses. Furthermore, the offender must complete any supervised release, probation, or parole periods. Finally, the offender must complete the requisite sex offender treatment program (which must be certified by the Attorney General or a jurisdiction).

Tier II offenders

Are subject to a twenty-five (25) year classification. An offender is classified as Tier II if they committed an offense carrying more than a one-year prison sentence and is at least as severe, when committed against a minor, as sex trafficking, coercion & enticement, transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, or abusive sexual contact with a minor over the age of thirteen (13).

Similarly, if the act involves a sexual performance using a minor, a solicitation of a minor to engage in prostitution, or production or distribution of child pornography, it falls within the Tier II classification. Furthermore, if the act occurs subsequent to placement as a Tier I offender, the offender will be elevated to Tier II.

Tier III offender

The highest tier under SORNA is Tier III. A Tier III offender is subject to a lifetime classification. In order to be classified under Tier III, an offender must commit a crime punishable by imprisonment in excess of one year and that it be comparable or more severe than aggravated sexual abuse or abusive sexual contact (when the victim is a minor under thirteen (13) years old).

An offender may also be classified as Tier III if the offense involves the kidnapping of a minor (that is not committed by a parent or guardian). Additionally, if the offense occurs subsequent to classification as a Tier II offender, the offender will be elevated to Tier III.

The sentencing court is given some level of autonomy in regards to sex offenders. Since the language of the statute contains the phrase “comparable to or more severe than,” the court has some degree of leeway when determining what is the proper classification for an offender.

Alternatively, the tier classifications that are contingent upon an age threshold must be obeyed, even if the elements of the crime do not have an age requirement. Each jurisdiction, with the exception of Indian tribes, is required to have a criminal penalty for failure to register that includes a maximum prison term of at least one year.

Sex Offender Obligations

  • A sex offender is subject to a series of obligations in regards to the sex offender registry. First, initial registration must occur prior to release from prison, or in the case of a sentence that does not require imprisonment, within three (3) business days from the date of sentencing.
  • A sex offender must register (and keep registration up to date) in each and every jurisdiction in which they reside, are employed, or are enrolled in school. Additionally, an offender must register in the jurisdiction of conviction if it differs from the residential jurisdiction.
  • A sex offender is under an obligation to keep all registration information current. If a sex offender changes his/her name, residence, employment, or student status, said offender must inform at least one jurisdiction (in which he/she is required to register) of these changed within three (3) business days.

This information must be provided to all other applicable jurisdictions immediately. Furthermore, if an offender plans to move to a new jurisdiction, he/she must inform the current jurisdiction prior to moving and provide information about the jurisdiction he/she is moving to.

  • Sex offenders must appear in person to update registration information, including taking an updated photograph, on a regular basis. The frequency of these in person appearances is dependent upon the offender’s tier classification.

Tier I offenders must appear in person once per year, Tier II offenders must appear every six (6) months, and Tier III offenders must appear every three (3) months. This in-person appearance is required at each and every jurisdiction in which the offender is registered.

With such stringent registration obligations and such abrupt deadlines doesn’t it make sense to have a knowledgeable and organized attorney in your corner? The penalties for a failure to register or update registration information are harsh.

Penalties for failure to register or update registration information, combined with interstate travel are even more serious. Attempting to stay compliant without legal advice and counseling is an extremely risky endeavor.

Consequences of Registering as a Sex Offender

Unlike some other crimes, sex crimes carry consequences that extend well beyond the conclusion of a prison or other sentence. Because the sex offender registry is publicly available information, a sex offender is likely to be subject to a detrimental reputation among community members. Sex offenders often have difficulty finding and maintaining regular employment.

Sex offenders often have difficulty applying for and receiving loans and for housing. Being a registered sex offender may limit the areas in which you may live. Sex offenders may also lose the ability to use the Internet and cell phones. Offenders are often prohibited from speaking with any non-immediate familial minor and cannot be near schools, parks, and playgrounds.

Different states may also provide other restrictions or punishments as they deem fit. These may include punishments such as ineligibility for federal student loans, forfeiture of pension benefits (depending on the job) and even difficulty obtaining acceptance into a nursing home. An eighteen (18) year old that commits a sexual offense may have consequences that obstruct their ability to have a pleasant end of life experience.

Proper Registration Procedure

Every state has a unique registry system. Laws vary by jurisdiction with regard to who must register, what information must be provided, and which information is available to the public.

The registration process must be completed in-person, at the local law enforcement agency in the city or town in which the offender resides in, as well as all subsequent re-registrations is employed in, or is a student in.

The information required of the offender may vary based on jurisdiction but frequently includes; name, DOB, SS number, addresses, pictures, motor vehicle information, criminal offense information, fingerprints, and even DNA samples. Some, but not all, of the information will be made available to the public. Information typically available to the public includes name, current street address, information regarding criminal offenses, and photographs of the offender.

Proper Registration Maintenance Procedure

Offenders are required to update their registry information in the event of any change as well as on a regular basis. If an offender moves or changes his/her status in any way, this information must be updated in the registry within three (3) business days.

Furthermore, offenders must make regular in-person appearances to update registry information. The regularity of these required updates is dependent on an offender’s tier classification. Tier I offenders must appear in person once per year, Tier II offenders must appear every six (6) months, and Tier III offenders must appear every three (3) months.

Penalties for Failure to Register

Failure to register for the sex offender list is a separate crime from the underlying offense that required the registration. Failure to register or update registration is a federal offense under Section 2250 of Title 18, United States Code.

If a proper registration is not made and maintained in accordance with SORNA requirements an offender is subject to fine and a maximum of ten (10) years in prison. Failure to register can also substantially enhance the penalty for a future crime.

If an offender commits a violent federal crime after knowingly failing to register or update a registration, he/she faces a maximum of thirty (30) years imprisonment. The strict penalties for violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2250 and the vast array of government agencies working together to enforce it make it imperative to have an experienced and competent lawyer working with you to ensure full compliance.

Sex Offender Registry Cases in the News

Article #1: Nationwide Sweep by U.S. Marshals Puts 345 Dangerous Sex Offenders Behind Bars (2013)

Three hundred and forty-five (345) individuals were arrested by the United States Marshals Service (USMS) at the conclusion of Operation Guardian, a three (3) year undertaking. The individuals arrested during the operation are considered some of the nations most dangerous noncompliant offenders.

There was cooperation between federal, state, and local officials throughout this operation. At the completion of the operation, 96% of the over four hundred (400) offenders targeted had been apprehended.

The U.S. Marshals Service designates one hundred and twenty-nine (129) full-time criminal investigators exclusively to conduct investigations for noncompliant sex offenders.

USMS Director Stacia Hylton stated, at a press conference after the conclusion of the operation, “The message we send to these individuals is there is nowhere you can hide.” Operation Guardian brought forth the full weight of international, federal, state, and local law enforcement capabilities.

Article #2: Registered Convicted Sex Offender Found Guilty of Attempted Production of Child Pornography and Travelling to Engage in Sex with a Minor (2014)

A registered sex offender with two prior child sex convictions was found guilty of a series of sexual crimes against children. The sixty-five-year-old man was convicted of attempting to produce child pornography, travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, transporting child pornography, possessing child pornography and offense by a registered sex offender.

This case was brought as a part of a nationwide Department of Justice (DOJ) initiative named Project Safe Childhood. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Cyber Crime Unit conducted the primary investigation. In November of 2011 the defendant, John Alan Lewis, met who we believed was a fourteen (14) year old girl.

Over the course of the next several months, Lewis sent and received many images depicting minors in sexually explicit positions. The girl was another sex offender using images he had captured personally. Authorities arrested the offender and assumed his online identity in a plot to catch Lewis. Lewis offered to drive from Ohio to Indiana to engage in a sex act with the young girl. When Lewis arrived at the meeting location, he was arrested, and child pornography was found in his possession.

Why You Need Us In Your Corner

Our attorneys have been successfully representing parties’ accused of sex offender registry violations for many years. Following the letter, complex deadlines and guidelines can be a frightening and confusing process.

Proceeding through the process without legal representation can expose you to extensive prison time. With prison sentences and excessive fines, you cannot afford to take any chances or miss any deadlines.

If you have been accused of violating the terms of your sex offender registration, please contact one of our skilled and experienced lawyers today.