Federal Sex Offender Law

Federal Sex Offender Law

Many local law enforcement agencies throughout the United States are in favor of the proposed Children’s Safety Act that was passed by the House of Representatives (by a 371-52 margin) and is expected to pass in the Senate later this year.  The Children’s Safety Act will greatly increase sex offender registry requirements and place more enforcement responsibility on state and local law enforcement agencies.  The bill proposes that a national website be created which lists the names and personal information of sex offenders all over the nation. 

There is currently no online national database of information about sex offenders.  Each state is responsible for publicizing information about the sex offenders in their communities, but these are often incomplete and outdated.  The new law would create a national online database of sex offenders, expand the types of offenses that require reporting with this database (such as child pornography offenses), and increase the amount of personal information about offenders available to the public.  

The new law will require state and local officials to inform the federal government and other states every time a sex offender moves.  One of the most controversial components of the bill, however, is the increase in personal information available about each sex offender.  The new law will require that an offender’s name, address, photograph, and vehicle information be included on the national database. 

Many experts believe that the new federal law will provide law enforcement with a way to keep a closer watch on those convicted of sex crimes against children.  One Nevada County Sheriff supports the bill, saying that it is necessary to help law enforcement keep track of child sex offenders.  Law enforcement officials are also in favor of the bill’s proposal that would require sex offenders to notify law enforcement by mail every 30 days.  There is no current legal stipulation as to how often a sex offender must contact law enforcement.  Statistics indicate that tens of thousands of sex offenders do not register with law enforcement or do not comply with annual verification laws. 

The new law would greatly strengthen the ability of law enforcement officials to keep track of sex offenders.  The major concern about this bill is the potential risks associated with publishing additional personal information about sex offenders.  Some law enforcement officers worry that citizens might take the law into their own hands and attempt to punish sex offenders for acts already punished through the criminal justice system.  Many experts believe there is a fine line that needs to be walked. 

If passed by the Senate and made into law, the Children’s Safety Act has the potential to protect our nation’s children from convicted sex offenders.  The logistics of this bill and how compliance will be handled on the different levels of law enforcement will still need to be smoothed out if this bill becomes law.  If it does pass, consumers will have better access to accurate and up-to-date information about sex offenders living and working in their communities. 

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