Location:
SEX OFFENDERS;

OLR Research Report


June 25, 2009

 

2009-R-0240

FEDERAL AND STATE SEX OFFENDER LAWS

By: Ryan O'Neil, Research Assistant

You asked about four things concerning sex offender registries:

1. information about the federal law;

2. if any action is pending in Congress to adopt a national sex offender registry;

3. how Connecticut law resembles the Adam Walsh Act; and

4. if there are any proposed or recent changes to the Connecticut sexual offender registry.

FEDERAL LAW

The 2006 Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA) created three classifications of sexual offenders — Tier III, Tier II, and Tier I.

Tier III offenders committed an offense punishable by imprisonment for more than one year and:

1. is comparable to or more severe than the following offenses or an attempt or conspiracy to commit one of these offenses: (a) aggravated sexual abuse or sexual abuse or (b) abusive sexual contact against a child younger than 13-years-old;

2. involves kidnapping of a minor (unless committed by a parent or guardian); or

3. occurs after the offender becomes a Tier II sex offender.

Tier II offenders are those who committed an offense punishable by more than a year in prison and:

1. when committed against a minor is comparable to or more severe than the following offenses or an attempt or conspiracy to commit such an offense (a) sex trafficking, (b) coercion and enticement, (c) transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, or (d) abusive sexual contact;

2. involves (a) use of a minor in a sexual performance, (b) solicitation of a minor to practice prostitution, or (c) production or distribution of child pornography; or

3. occurs after the offender becomes a Tier I sex offender.

Tier I offenders are sex offenders who do not fall into one of the other two categories.

Registration

The act requires each state to operate a sex offender registry and establishes of a national sex offender registry. The national registry and all of the state registries must be linked so information can be updated immediately.

After being released into the community, a sex offender must register with his or her local jurisdiction. Being required to register applies retroactively. If someone committed a Tier II offense 12 years, he or she is required to register.

Offenders must keep their registration current for the entirety of their registration period, excluding any time the offender is imprisoned. Required information includes the sex offender's:

1. name, including any aliases;

2. Social Security number;

3. address;

4. employer's name and address;

5. school's name and address, if the sex offender is a student; and

6. car's license plate number and description.

The state where the sex offender registers must include the following information about the offender in its registry:

1. a physical description of the sex offender,

2. the text of the provision of law defining the criminal offense for which the sex offender is registered,

3. the offender's criminal history, including the date of all arrests and convictions, the status of parole, probation, or supervised release, registration status, and the existence of any outstanding arrest warrants;

4. a current photograph, a set of fingerprints and palm prints, and a DNA sample of the sex offender; and

5. a photocopy of a valid driver's license or identification card issued to the sex offender by a jurisdiction.

Once a sex offender has either registered or updated his or her registration, a notification is sent to:

1. the state's attorney general, who must include that information in the National Sex Offender Registry or other appropriate databases;

2. appropriate law enforcement agencies (including probation agencies, if appropriate) and each school and public housing agency in each area in which the sex offender resides, works, or is a student;

3. each local jurisdiction where the sex offender resides, works, or is a student, and each local jurisdiction affected when a change of residence, employment, or student status occurs;

4. any agency responsible for conducting employment-related background checks;

5. social service entities responsible for protecting minors in the child welfare system;

6. volunteer organizations in which contact with minors or other vulnerable individuals might occur;

7. any organization, company, or individual who requests such notification pursuant to procedures established by the jurisdiction.

The registration periods are:

1. 15 years for a tier I sex offender;

2. 25 years for a tier II sex offender; and

3. for the life of the person for a tier III sex offender.

Tier I and Tier III offenders can have the registration period reduced by maintaining a clear record. This consists of:

1. not being convicted of any offense with a possible sentence of more than one year;

2. not being convicted of any sex offense;

3. successfully completing any periods of supervised release, probation, and parole; and

4. successfully completing an appropriate sex offender treatment program certified by a jurisdiction or the attorney general.

If a Tier I offender maintains a clean record for 10 years, the registration period is reduced by five years. If a Tier III offender maintains a clean record for 25 years, the registration period is reduced by 25 years. There is no such provision for Tier II offenders.

States had until July 26, 2009 to comply with the act. But U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder used the act's first of two one-year extensions, giving states until July 27, 2010 to comply. Prior to the blanket extension, Connecticut had applied for and was granted a one-year extension based on its efforts made toward compliance.

The National Sex Offender Public Website can be found at: http://www.nsopw.gov .

PENDING FEDERAL LEGISLATION

Three bills currently before Congress have to do with sex offender registries. H.R. 264, the “Save America Comprehensive Immigration Act of 2009,” allows the homeland security secretary to deny a family-based immigration request from an American with a non-American spouse or child if: (1) the requestor is on the national sex offender registry for a conviction that resulted in more than one year's imprisonment; (2) the requestor has failed to rebut this information within 90 days; and (3) granting the petition would put a spouse or child in danger of sexual abuse. On February 9, 2009, it was referred to the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law.

H.R. 434 amends the 1974 Privacy Act by authorizing the disclosure to government agencies of Federal Emergency Management Agency records on assistance provided to individuals in connection with a major disaster or emergency for purposes of complying with a federal or state sex offender registry or notification law. On February 24, 2009, it was referred to the House Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives.

H.R. 1623:

1. mandates reporting requirements for convicted sex traffickers and other sex offenders against minors intending to engage in international travel,

2. requires high-risk sex offenders intending to travel abroad to notify the government of the destination country,

3. prevents entry into the United States of any foreign sex offender against a minor, and

4. allows the secretary of state to revoke the passport of anyone awaiting trial for a sex offense against a minor or any permanent resident who has been convicted of such an offense.

On April 27, it was referred to the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law.

CONNECTICUT SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY

The legislature created the sex offender registry in 1998. The law requires the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to maintain a central repository of information on certain sex offenders and to make it available to the public at state and local police stations and over the Internet. An offender must register his or her name, identifying factors including a photograph, criminal history record, and home address.

People convicted as juveniles are not required to register, but children who (1) committed the offense after age 16 or (2) were age 14 and older and tried and convicted as adults must do so unless the offense was one where the law permits courts to grant exemptions. A court may exempt an offender if registration is not required for public safety and the offender (1) was convicted of having sexual intercourse with a victim age 13 to 15 (second-degree sexual assault), and (2) was under age 19 when the crime was committed (CGS 54-251(b)).

OLR Reports 2007-R-0322 and 2007-R-0609 contain detailed summaries of the Connecticut laws and are attached.

Connecticut's Sex Offender Registry can be found at: http://www.sor.state.ct.us/pls/sor/ .

CONNECTICUT AND THE ADAM WALSH ACT

The Department of Public Safety states it has drafted two bills over the past two legislative sessions in an effort to implement the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) requirements, the registry portion of the AWA, into Connecticut law. Both pieces were submitted as Governor's bills, specifically SB 35 in 2008 and HB 6384 in 2009. Neither was passed.

The current Connecticut sex offender registry law, CGS 54-250 to 54-261 (http://www.cga.ct.gov/2009/pub/chap969.htm), established an offense-based registry system like that required under the AWA. Registration is based on a conviction for an offense and not on an assessment of risk. The AWA places registrants into three tiers based on their conviction.

According to DPS, some of Connecticut's current offenses need to be realigned to match the federal tiers. DPS points out one of the provisions of SORNA requires the registration of certain juveniles, 14-years-old and older, for offenses such as sexual assault in the first degree. Connecticut law currently requires juvenile's age 14-years-old or older who commit such offenses automatically to be moved from Juvenile Court to the regular criminal docket. A juvenile convicted in adult court would be subject to registration. In essence, DPS says, Connecticut accomplishes the SORNA requirements with respect to registration of certain juvenile offenders. DPS says the question of how Connecticut aligns with the AWA is not an easy one given the complexity of the act.

DPS believes Connecticut should easily comply with the SORNA requirements as the systems are very close in basic construction. DPS believes many AWA provisions would make the Connecticut sex offender registry a more useful and accurate tool for Connecticut residents to use.

2009 CHANGES TO THE CONNECTICUT SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY LAWS

The only change from the regular session was Public Act 09-199, which requires DPS to notify the superintendent of schools in the community where a sex offender lives or plans to live whenever the registrant is released. The notice must be by email and include the same registry information available to the public through the Internet. This information includes the registrant's name, address, date of birth, race, and general description. It also includes the crime he or she committed requiring registration and the date he or she was convicted, first registered, and last had the registration verified.

DPS is updating the registry system. It appears that the new registry database system, when it is operational, will allow DPS to place email notifications into the system for jurisdictions, according to DPS. The department just needs to identify the appropriate email addresses for the school districts. DPS is working with the Connecticut Association of Superintendents of Schools to see if it can avoid placing any hardships on the school systems.

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