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What is the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act?

Until passage of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, states did not have uniform guidelines for categorizing sex offenders. A National Sex Offender Registry, known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, was outlined in Title 1 of the 2006 Adam Walsh Act.

The Wisconsin Sex Offender Registry, like registries in other states, lists and tracks the whereabouts of people convicted of sex crimes. The length of time a person remains on the registry depends upon the type of sexual offense for which he or she was convicted. The registration system monitors released sex offenders, whether or not they are currently supervised through parole or probation.

The Adam Walsh Act was designed to warn the public about sex offenders in their communities. Defendants ordered by a court to sign up with the registry can be charged with a federal crime for failing to register or notify authorities of a change of residence, school or job in a timely manner.

The public, as well as law enforcement agencies and other authorities, has access to information about convicted sex offenders through registry websites. An offender's name, address and picture typically are provided. A history of registrants' offenses may include whether the offender was convicted of a violent crime.

Information about sex offenders on registry websites is limited. Some information is only available for law enforcement agencies. In Wisconsin, where the Sex Offender Registration Program oversees the registry, the public does not have access to information about juvenile sex offenders.

A sex offender registry seems like the least of a Wisconsin defendant's problems at the time of an arrest. However, criminal defense attorneys never forget possible long-term consequences when dealing with a client's immediate legal problems.

A convicted defendant may be required to register as a sex offender for several years or even a lifetime, limiting and often threatening personal, social and professional opportunities.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, "Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA)," accessed Sep. 10, 2015

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