It is a federal crime for a sex offender who is required to register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) to knowingly fail to register or update a registration as required. See 18 U.S.C. §2250. Sex offenders convicted under state law may also be prosecuted under this federal statute for failing to register if the sex offender knowingly fails to register or update a registration as required, and engages in interstate travel, foreign travel, or enters, leaves, or resides on an Indian reservation. A sex offender who fails to properly register under this statute may face up to 10 years in prison and fines. And if a sex offender knowingly fails to register or update a registration as required and commits a violent federal crime, the sex offender may face up to 30 years in prison under this federal statute.
Similarly, state sex offender registration and public notification laws are designed to protect the public from sex offenders. These laws generally require adult and juvenile sex offenders to register with the local law enforcement authority of the city they reside in or, if the sex offender does not reside in a city, with the local law enforcement authority of the county in which they reside. Registration generally involves the sex offender providing the local law enforcement authority with information that includes the sex offender’s name, address, photograph, and the criminal offense for which the sex offender was convicted.
Registered sex offenders are required to periodically report to the local law enforcement authority to verify the accuracy of the registration information—and to promptly report certain changes in the information as those changes occur. The public may be notified of registered sex offenders in several ways. In most states there is a department or agency that maintains a statewide sex offender registration database. This database contains all information provided to local law enforcement authorities by sex offenders required to register. And state laws usually make most of the information in this database freely available to the public through a website.
A sex offender’s failure to register as required may be an additional felony offense under state law—especially if the underlying offense that triggered the registration requirement was a felony offense. The laws regarding sex offender registration requirements vary from state to state and are usually located in a state’s statutes.