States facing deadline to comply with Federal Sex Offender Database Law

Posted on: March 9, 2011

In 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child and Protection and Safety Act. The act was named after John Walsh’s son, Adam. John Walsh is the host of “America’s Most Wanted” TV series. This act established a national sex offender registry, increases punishment for some federal crimes against children and strengthens child pornography protections.

Under federal law, offenders are divided into three tiers based on the crimes they committed and face different registration requirements for each one. The most severe offenders, for instance, would have to renew their registration in person every three months.

However, some states such as Texas are hesitating to enact this act for their state. With states facing budget shortfalls the cost to implement the act may not be feasible. So far only four states, Delaware, Florida, Ohio and South Dakota, have enacted this act.

Texas operates its database differently from the U.S., using risk assessment to categorize offenders instead of the offenses committed that federal law requires. Its law requires sex offenders to register either for 10 years or for life based on offense and risk level.

Texas officials do support the intent of federal program. However some of the standards fall short of those of the Texas sex offender registry, the second largest in the nation with 63,000 names. If Texas and the other states don’t comply by July 27, they will lose 10 percent of their federal funding for assisting crime victims and witnesses through the registry. For Texas, this amounts to about $2.2 million in 2012.

In addition, officials in Texas say that the “one-size-fits-all classification” would place 19-year-olds who had slept with their 15-year-old girlfriends in the same tier as a 48-year-old pedophile. As a result, the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee recommended that the state not comply with the federal law because of a report it issued which found that the change in requirements would “increase greatly” the number of people on the registry.

While the Federal Sex Offender Database Law is a good idea, once again the Federal Government doesn’t give flexibility to the States that may have a better system already in use.


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