What does the term “SORNA” mean?
SORNA refers to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act which is Title I of
the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (Public Law 248-109).
SORNA provides a comprehensive set of minimum standards for sex offender
registration and notification in the United States. SORNA aims to closes potential gaps
and loopholes that existed under prior law and generally strengthens the nationwide
network of sex offender registration and notification programs. Important areas of
reform under SORNA include:
- Extends the jurisdictions in which registration is required beyond the 50 states, the
District of Columbia, and the principal U.S. territories, to include federally
recognized Indian tribes.
- Incorporates a more comprehensive group of sex offenders and sex offenses for
which registration is required.
- Requires registered sex offenders to register and keep their registration current in the
jurisdictions in which they reside, work, or go to school.
- Requires sex offenders to provide more extensive registration information.
- Requires sex offenders to make periodic in person appearances to verify and update
the registration information.
- Expands the amount of information available to the public regarding registered sex
- Makes changes in the required minimum duration of registration for sex offenders.
What is the Federal role in the administration of SORNA?
The Federal Government is working to assist with the implementation of SORNA and
protect the public from sexual abuse and exploitation through:
- Stepped-up federal investigation and prosecution efforts to assist jurisdictions in
enforcing sex offender registration requirements,
- New statutory provisions for the National Sex Offender Registry and the Dru Sjodin
National Sex Offender Public Website that compile information obtained from
registration programs across the country and make it readily available to law
enforcement or the public,
- Federal development of software tools, which registration jurisdictions will be able to
use to facilitate the operation of their registration and notification programs in
conformity with the SORNA standards, and
- Establishment of the SMART Office to administer the national standards for sex
offender registration and notification and to assist registration jurisdictions in their
What is the SMART Office?
SORNA establishes the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending,
Registering, and Tracking (the “SMART Office”), a component of the Office of Justice
Programs within the U.S. Department of Justice. The SMART Office is authorized by
law to administer the standards for sex offender registration and notification that are set
forth in SORNA. It is further authorized to cooperate with and provide assistance to
states, local governments, tribal governments, and other public and private entities in
relation to sex offender registration and notification and other measures for the protection
of the public from sexual abuse or exploitation. The SMART Office is a key federal
partner and resource for jurisdictions as they con
What are the proposed Guidelines?
The Guidelines provide all registration jurisdictions with guidance, explanation and
advice regarding the administration and implementation of SORNA. The Attorney
General has issued these Guidelines to promote and assist in the implementation of the
What jurisdictions are included under SORNA?
The 50 states, the District of Columbia, the five principal U.S. territories, and federally
recognized Indian tribes that elect to function as registration jurisdictions are all
considered jurisdictions under SORNA. Each of these jurisdictions must comply with
the provisions of SORNA as explained in the Guidelines in order to substantially
What is substantial implementation?
The standard of “substantial implementation” is satisfied if a jurisdiction carries out the
requirements of SORNA as interpreted and explained in the guidelines. SORNA
provides a floor, not a ceiling for sex offender notification and registration programs.
Jurisdictions are free to exceed the minimum standards of SORNA, but a jurisdiction may
not fall below the requirements of SORNA. Jurisdictions are free to implement SORNA
in any manner that meets the minimum requirements.
What do registration jurisdictions need to do in order to comply with the SORNA tiering system?
The use of the “tier” classifications in SORNA relates to substance, not form or
terminology. Thus, to implement the SORNA requirements, jurisdictions do not have to
label their sex offenders as “tier I,” “tier II,” and “tier III,” and do not have to adopt any
other particular approach to labeling or categorization of sex offenders. Rather, the
SORNA requirements are met as long as sex offenders who satisfy the SORNA criteria
for placement in a particular tier are consistently subject to at least the duration of
registration, frequency of in person appearances for verification, and extent of website
disclosure that SORNA requires for that tier.
Tier I: Predicate offenses include whatever offenses do not support a higher
classification, such as misdemeanor registration offenses and child pornography
Tier II: Predicate offenses include most felonious sexual abuse or sexual exploitation
crimes involving victims who are minors.
Tier III: Predicate offenses generally encompass sexual assaults involving sexual acts
regardless of victim age, sexual contact offenses against children below the age of 13,
nonparental kidnapping of minors, and attempts or conspiracies to commit such offenses.
What are the SORNA requirements for tribal governments?
Federally recognized Indian tribes* may elect to 1) delegate their functions relating to sex
offender registration and notification under SORNA to the state or states in which the
tribal land is located--if a complete delegation is elected, the tribe must then provide
access to its land and provide any cooperation and assistance needed to enable the state or
states to carry out and enforce the SORNA requirements; or 2) tribes may elect to
implement SORNA and become a SORNA registration jurisdiction. However,
duplication of registration and notification functions by tribes and states is not required,
and tribes that elect to be registration jurisdictions may enter into cooperative agreements
with states or local governments to carry out registration and notification functions.
*Delegation to the state or states is au
Which information is prohibited from being available on public websites?
Jurisdictions must exempt four types of information from disclosure. These exemptions
only constrain jurisdictions in relation to the information made available on their publicly
accessible sex offender websites. It does not limit the discretion of jurisdictions to
disclose these types of information in other contexts, such as to law enforcement. The
exempted four types of information are:
- The victim’s identity,
- The Social Security number of the sex offender,
- Any reference to arrests of the sex offender that did not result in conviction, and
- Passport and immigration document numbers.
There are also optional exemptions, which apply to information that jurisdictions may
exempt from their websites in their discretion. These are:
- Any information about a tier I sex offender convicted of an offense other than a
specified offense against a minor.
- The name of an employer of the sex offender,
- The name of an educational institution where the sex offender is a student,
- Any other information which the Attorney General allows to be exempted.
As noted, these exclusions are discretionary. Jurisdictions are free to include these types
of information on their sex offender websites if they are so inclined.
Which jurisdictions must required sex offenders to register in the jurisdiction?
SORNA requires sex offenders to register and keep their registration current in each
jurisdiction in which they reside, are employed, or attend school. A sex offender must
also initially register in the jurisdiction in which convicted if it is different from the
jurisdiction of residence. Jurisdictions’ registration programs must incorporate theses
requirements to implement SORNA.
When must initial registration be carried out?
Jurisdictions must register incarcerated sex offenders before their release from
imprisonment for the registration offense or, in case of a non-imprisonment sentence,
within three business days of sentencing for the registration offense. As with other
provisions of SORNA, jurisdictions are free to exceed the requirements of SORNA.
What are the requirements for keeping registry information current?
A sex offender must, not later than three business days after each change of name,
residence, employment, or student status, appear in person in at least one jurisdiction in
which the sex offender is required to register and inform that jurisdiction of all changes in
the information required for that sex offender in the sex offender registry. This
information must immediately be provided to all other jurisdictions in which the sex
offender is required to register. Jurisdictions must also require a sex offender to provide
notice if he or she is leaving prior to the move; this includes giving information about the
jurisdiction to which he or she is going.
How often must a registered sex offender appear in person to update his or her registration information?
A sex offender must appear in person, allow the jurisdiction to take a current photograph,
and verify the information in each registry in which that offender is required to be
registered not less frequently than:
- Annually for a tier I sex offender,
- Every six months for a tier II sex offender, and
- Every three months for a tier III sex offender.
Sex offenders must carry out this schedule of personal appearances in all jurisdictions
where they reside, are employed or attend school. As with other SORNA requirements,
jurisdictions may require in person appearances by sex offenders with greater frequency
than the minimum required by SORNA.
Are states required to have a failure to register statute?
Yes. SORNA requires jurisdictions (other than Indian tribes) to provide a criminal
penalty that includes a maximum term of imprisonment greater than one year for the
failure of a sex offender to comply with the SORNA requirements. Hence, a
jurisdiction’s implementation of SORNA includes having a failure-to-register offense for
which the maximum authorized term of imprisonment exceeds a year. (Indian tribes are
not included in this requirement because tribal court jurisdiction does not extend to
imposing terms of imprisonment exceeding a year.)
Will registration jurisdictions receive any assistance in updating their websites to assure compliance with SORNA?
The Department of Justice, in consultation with the jurisdictions, will develop and
support registry management and website software. This software will facilitate the
immediate exchange of sex offender information among jurisdictions, public access to
sex offender information and other forms of community notification through the Internet,
and compliance in other respects with the SORNA requirements.
How are juveniles treated under SORNA?
Juveniles who are prosecuted and convicted as adults of a sex offense are covered by
SORNA and are treated identical to an adult sex offenders. Juvenile offenders not
prosecuted as adults are not required to register by SORNA unless the offender is 14
years of age or older at the time of the offense and has been adjudicated delinquent for an
offense comparable to or more severe than aggravated sexual abuse (as described in
section 2241 of title 18, United States Code), or an attempt or conspiracy to commit such
“Aggravated sexual abuse” is defined in 18 U.S.C. 2241. State offenses that are
comparable to this federal offense are those that cover:
- engaging in a sexual act with another by force or the threat of serious violence (see 18
- engaging in a sexual act with another by rendering unconscious or involuntarily
drugging the victim (see 18 U.S.C. 2241(b)); or
- engaging in a sexual act with a child under the age of 12 (see 18 U.S.C. 2241(c)).
How are foreign convictions and tribal convictions treated under SORNA?
Foreign convictions require sex offenders to be registered under SORNA unless the
foreign conviction “was not obtained with sufficient safeguards for fundamental fairness
and due process for the accused.” The guidelines establish rules for determining if legal
processes in foreign countries meet the standard required under SORNA. Jurisdictions are
also not required to prescribe registration based on tribal court convictions resulting from
proceeding in which the defendant was denied the right to assistance of counsel.
Why do I have to enter an alphanumeric code before I can perform a search?
The program that generates and authorizes the alphanumeric code is called a CAPTCHA, which stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” The CAPTCHA is used to protect the availability of the Website and to preserve the integrity of the information available through the site.
How do I sign up to receive e-mail notifications when a sex offender registers a new address that is near me?
To register for e-mail notifications, first go to the “Community Notifications” tab. Next, enter your e-mail address and the appropriate information about the address in the Register for Community Notifications section of the page. Next, select whether you would like to be notified about sex offender addresses within a 1-, 2-, or 3-mile radius of your address or within the same zip code. Next, check the “I Agree” box to agree to the terms and conditions of the community notification system. Next, click the “Register” button. You should then receive a validation e-mail message that requires you to click the link in the message to complete your registration.
How do I search for sex offenders who are registered by different registration jurisdictions?
The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) provides the ability to search for registered sex offenders nationwide. To access the Website, go to www.nsopw.gov.
How do I search for a particular registered sex offender if I do not know how to spell his or her name?
The Name Search feature of the Website uses “begins with” search logic that returns all registered sex offenders with a first and/or last name or an alias that begins with the criteria you are searching. For example, if you conduct a search for first name “Jo” and last name “Sm”, the search results will include registered sex offenders that have the first name John, Jordan, Joseph, etc. with a last name like Smith, Smalls, Smart, etc. To ensure that you get the most accurate results, conduct a name search with the first two or three letters in the first and/or last name and then narrow your search by adding more letters if the search results are too numerous.
How do I search for registered sex offenders who live, work, or attend school near an address of interest to me?
This Website provides you with a way to search for registered sex offenders by a geographic radius around a particular address, by city, by zip code, and by county. To perform one of these searches, go to the “Geographical Search” tab, enter the information that is appropriate for the type of search you want to perform, select the search type, and click the “Search” button.
How do I contact the registry if I have a question or if I have information that may be helpful?
The registry staff can be contacted two different ways. The first is to click the “Contact Us” tab, fill out the form, and click the “Submit” button. The second is to click the “Submit a Tip” link while viewing a registered sex offender’s details. When a tip is submitted, information about the offender will automatically be included in the message so the registry staff knows which offender corresponds with the tip.