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Survey : Why States Won’t Comply with SORNA

October 24, 2009

SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics
Survey on State Compliance with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA)(a.k.a. Adam Walsh Act) (PDF file) – April 2009


Not one of the 47 states that responded to questions in a recent survey will meet the July 2009 compliance deadline for implementing the sex offender registration and notification standards required by the Adam Walsh Act. The seven-question email survey of the states was conducted in February 2009 by SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics.

Of the 45 states that did answer the survey questions, 42 reported that legislation would be needed to bring the states into SORNA compliance. Two others were unclear whether legislation would be needed, and one was unlikely to put forth any more SORNA compliance legislation after two previous legislative attempts failed

Federally recognized Indian tribes were present in 26 responding states. Ten of those states indicated that they would work with the tribes on SORNA compliance through cooperative agreements. Seven states said they were not planning to enter into cooperative agreements with the tribes in that fashion, and nine states had not determined whether the state and tribe would work together on SORNA compliance.

States responding to the survey cited a number of factors impacting their ability to comply with SORNA although some common themes emerged (most states cited more than one impacting factor). The most commonly cited barrier to SORNA compliance was the act’s juvenile registration and reporting requirements, cited by 23 states.

According to the SORNA guidelines, SORNA does not require registration for juveniles adjudicated as delinquent for all sex offenses, but it does require registration for a defined class of older juveniles (at least 14 years old) adjudicated for committing particularly serious sexually assaults, along with conspiracies or attempts to commit such crimes.

Retroactive registration was the second most frequently referenced SORNA barrier cited by the states (20 states). SORNA requires registration to be retroactive to certain sex offenders whose convictions predate SORNA enactment or its implementation in a particular jurisdiction.

Seven states were concerned with the cost of implementing SORNA, as the federal government has yet to provide funds to support its implementation. Seven states also cited as a barrier SORNA’s requirement that convicted sex offenders be assigned to tiers based on the severity of their crimes, with Tier 1 offenders being considered the least dangerous and Tier III offenders the most dangerous. Length of registration requirement
and other controls are based on an offender’s assigned tier. Four states’ SORNA compliance was impacted by the act’s in-person reporting requirements, which direct registrants to appear in person to register and, periodically, to verify or update registry information.

Survey responses from every state are included in this document.

Ohio’s response to question #4- What will be the most difficult aspect of the Adam Walsh Act/SORNA for your state to comply with?:

“Based on the legislative proceedings that resulted in implementation of the AWA, the unfettered registration of juveniles and the “super-retroactivity” requirements will likely be difficult to address. If the SMART office continues to apply the “substantially implement” standard as requiring absolutely no departure of any kind or degree from AWA guidelines, then compliance will be enormously difficult for every state.”

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