The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was established in 2006. Included in this, was a comprehensive sex offender registration system (SORNA), which implemented a more stringent system to create a nationwide sex offender registration network, while at the same time preventing potential loopholes.

It is only natural to wish that you could live off the radar when you are required to register as a sex offender. However, not adhering to the legal requirements can lead to fines and incarceration. It is important to understand the registration laws as they apply to you in order to avoid a costly mistake. Something as small as failing to notify authorities of your new phone number, or failing to register in the county where you attend school can cause major issues, as can:

  • failure to provide all online profiles and usernames
  • failure to register in a county where you are vacationing for five or more days
  • failure to pay the registration or renewal fee

Once you are convicted of a sexual offense in one state, you must register as a sex offender for the rest of your life, or for as long as you live in that state. Your registration information must be updated according to the requirements set out at sentencing, and whenever any of your information changes. Knowingly failing to register is a federal crime, as is failing to update your registration when you travel to another state or foreign country, or when you enter or leave an Indian reservation.

What is Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA)?

SORNA provides a registration and notification program for tracking and monitoring sex offenders after they are released into communities, thus serving an important purpose where public safety is concerned. SORNA registration contains important information regarding convicted sex offenders to the public, but also to local as well as federal authorities. Some of the information on the register includes the sex offender's:

  • name
  • past offenses
  • current location

Public notification differs across the states, but it involves registration on sex offender websites in all states. However, all jurisdictions have to comply with the federal standards specified by SORNA. Likewise, each state has its own laws regarding registration.

Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) classifies offenders in tiers, which relate to substances, rather than to terminology or form. However, jurisdictions do not have to assign labels to sex offenders or categorize them. Provided sex offenders satisfy the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) placement criteria for a particular tier are met, which is done by:

  • ensuring the criteria of a tier are met
  • adhering to the minimum duration of registration
  • meeting the required frequency of in-person appearances
  • and conforms to website disclosure.

Tier I classification applies to misdemeanor offenses such possession of child pornography.

Tier II classification applies to most other offenses such as sexual exploitation crimes, and felonious sexual abuse, or other crimes that involve minors, such as production and distribution of child pornography.

Tier III classification applies to all sexual assaults, regardless of the age of the victim, and sexual contact offenses against minors thirteen years of younger, non parental kidnapping (or conspiracies or attempts of kidnapping) of children.

Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) specifies the duration of registration for registration as:

  • Tier I sex offenders - 15 years
  • Tier II sex offenders - 25 years
  • Tier II sex offenders - for life.

Registration resumes as soon as a person is released from custody after incarceration. If a person is convicted of non-incarceration offenses, registration resumes at the time of sentencing. Convicted sex offenders are typically informed about the registration requirement at sentencing, which usually applies to anyone convicted of:

  • aggravated criminal sexual assault
  • aggravated criminal sexual abuse
  • predatory criminal sexual assault
  • criminal sexual abuse
  • criminal sexual assault
  • sexual exploitation of a minor
  • indecent solicitation of a child
  • patronizing or soliciting a juvenile prostitute
  • accommodating a juvenile prostitution premises
  • aggravated pornography
  • child pornography

While this list is not exhaustive, it provides a guideline. Generally speaking, if you are charged with a sex offense against an alleged victim who is a juvenile younger than eighteen years of age, or if you are convicted of a violent sex crime against any person, you will most likely have to register on the sex offenders list.

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) allows certain classes of offenders to reduce the duration of their registration. A tier I sex offender who maintains a clean record for ten years can have his or her registration reduced by five years. Someone who is registered as a sex offender due to a juvenile delinquency must maintain a clean record for twenty-five years in order to have his or her Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) registration terminated.

In order to fulfill the criteria for a clean record, a sex offender must fulfill certain requirements, including:

  • Avoid being convicted of any offenses with an imprisonment period of one or more years;
  • Avoid being convicted for sex offenses regardless of penalties;
  • Completing supervised parole, probation and release periods successfully;
  • Complete any required sex offender treatment program offered by a certified jurisdiction or an Attorney general successfully.

Jurisdictions may decide on the specifics of certification criteria. There may be a board certified program and the board may determine whether offenders have successfully completed the certification programs.

What You Should Know About Registering on the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA)

Incarcerated sex offenders must be registered by the jurisdiction before they are released from prison. In cases where the sentence does not involve imprisonment, the offender has three business days from the day of sentencing to register.

The initial registration must take place in the jurisdiction where the conviction took place, and additional registrations must also be done in the jurisdictions where the offender works, lives or attends school.

Failure to Register for the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act

Knowingly failing to register one the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act or failing to update your registration according to the requirements of the act, is a federal crime. If you are convicted for failing to register to update your registration, it may lead to statutory penalties, including up to ten years of imprisonment.

A sex offender who knowingly fails to register for SORNA or to update registration, and commits a violent federal crime, may face up to thirty years of imprisonment.

Convicted sex offenders must register with the local police in each jurisdiction where they reside, attend school, or are employed. Registration has to be renewed or updated periodically, usually annually, or more promptly (within three business days of a change) in the event of:

  • change of name
  • change of address
  • change of employment
  • and a change of student status.

When such a change occurs, the offender must report to at least one of the jurisdictions, and the information must be provided to the other jurisdictions. If the offender changes his or her address, s/he has three days to register on the sex offenders register in the new jurisdiction. Intentionally failing to update the registry can lead to ten years in prison.

Periodic Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) updates require that the offender appears in person at the jurisdiction. A photo will be taken and information will be verified for each registry in which s/he is registered. Updates must be conducted:

  • Annually for tier I sex offenders
  • Bi-annually (every 6 months) for tier II sex offenders
  • Four times a year for tier II sex offenders.

These personal appearances must be carried out in all the jurisdictions in which offenders live, work or attend school.

Failure to register if you are a convicted sex offender is considered a crime across all the states, and it can result in federal charges. A conviction for failing to register will require proof that you:

  • were duty bound to register as a sex offender
  • were aware of (or were reasonably expected to be aware) of your duty to register
  • failed to comply with registration or other related requirements

As is typical with any crimes, it is up to the prosecution to prove the above elements beyond any reasonable doubt, or the defendant will be acquitted by the judge or jury.

Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) requires that jurisdictions provide criminal penalties (including a maximum imprisonment term of more than one year) for any sex offenders who fail to register or comply with SORNA requirements. This also applies to Indian tribes; however, the maximum imprisonment term will not exceed a year.

These are some examples of the penalties you might face if you are found guilty of failure to register on the sex offenders register in these respective states:

Florida: In Florida, most violations relating to failure to register are considered third-degree felonies that carry a five year prison sentence and up to $5,000 in fines. However, if you notify law enforcement of your intent to move, but remain in the residence without reporting that your plans have changed within 48 hours of the initial move-out date, it will be considered a second-degree felony that carries up to 15 years imprisonment and fines of up to $10,000.

New York: Failure to register is a class E felony in New York, and a conviction for a first offense can result in a four-year prison sentence and up to $5.000 in fines. A second conviction for failure to register is a class D felony and carries a prison sentence of 1-7 years and up to $5,000 in fines.

California: If you were convicted of a misdemeanor and failing to register is also a misdemeanor that carries up to one year of jail time and/or a maximum of $1,000 in fines. If you are required to register because you were convicted of a felony sex offense, or because you have been convicted of failure to register in the past, the felony for failing to register will carry a 16-month, two-year or three-year sentence.

Since sexual crimes are federal offenses, failure to register may result in a federal criminal penalty of up to ten years for offenders who knowingly fail to register, or to update their registration. If you fail to register according to the requirements of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) and you have a prior conviction for one of a number of qualifying sex offenses, you may be charged with a federal offense under:

  • The Code of Military Justice
  • Federal Law
  • Law of the District of Columbia
  • Tribal Law
  • United States territory or possession law.

As a member of the US armed forces stationed in one state, and you have a prior sex offense conviction under military law, failure to register would lead to a federal charge, regardless of whether you have ever left the state.

Getting the Best Defense for Failure to Register

The underlying sex crime will determine your penalty for failure to register. The base offense level tiers are provided for in the sentencing guidelines which means that a Tier III offender will be subjected to the highest level of sentencing.

With so many different requirements that are often changing, it can be difficult to remember and to implement every requirement. It is easy to slip up and end up being charged with Failure to Register, which is a serious felony offense. If you fail to register, you may be arrested, and you will have to post bond before you can be released.

When you're faced with a case that seems impossible to win, it is a good idea to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you to prevail on the charge. Our team of lawyers have represented many individuals on failure to register charges, and we have been able to help down plead or dismiss their cases.

Contact the experienced lawyers at Sex Crimes Attorney today at 888-666-8480 to review your case and to prepare the strongest legal defense for your individual situation. If your failure to register was caused by an innocent mistake, we can help the court understand the circumstances, and convince them that you did not intend to break the law.