Office of Justice Programs

Juvenile Registration and Notification Requirements Under SORNA

Title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), requires that jurisdictions include in their registries certain juveniles who have been adjudicated delinquent of a sex offense. More specifically, SORNA requires the registration of juveniles who 1) were 14 years of age or older at the time of the offense, and 2) were adjudicated delinquent of an offense equivalent to or more severe than aggravated sexual abuse (as described in 18 U.S.C. § 2241). Because of the severity of these offenses, these juveniles are categorized as tier III offenders under SORNA and are subject to applicable duration and in-person verification requirements. However, SORNA does not require lifetime registration without qualification, allowing registration to be terminated after 25 years for those offenders who have maintained a clean record.

The National Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification specify that the offenses requiring registration for these juveniles are limited to those equivalent to 18 U.S.C. § 2241(a) or (b), which are sex offenses generally involving forcible penetration.

Notification to the Public and Community

In 2011, Supplemental Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification were issued that specifically granted jurisdictions discretion in whether to post information about persons adjudicated delinquent of a sex offense on the jurisdiction's public sex offender registry website. In other words, jurisdictions are no longer required to post such information publicly in order to substantially implement SORNA, but may do so, if they so choose. Moreover, jurisdictions may want to consider some form of notification to community agencies or individuals when a person adjudicated delinquent of a sex offense is in a community as a resident, student or employee.

For example, a jurisdiction may consider establishing or preserving a notification process whereby registering agencies will notify secondary school officials when a juvenile sex offender enrolls in their school. Similarly, a jurisdiction may want to develop a policy so that the responsible law enforcement agency, student services department or other appropriate office at an institution of higher education in the community is notified when a juvenile sex offender commences coursework or changes his or her registration information. In addition, protection of the public might necessitate a limited community notification process, whereby agencies and/or institutions tasked with protecting the interests and welfare of children or concerned parents may proactively request or petition for disclosure of information about registered juvenile sex offenders.

Substantial Implementation

A third set of guidelines, the Supplemental Guidelines for Juvenile Registration Under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (Juvenile Supplemental Guidelines), released in August 2016, addressed the standards utilized by the SMART Office in reviewing a jurisdiction's juvenile sex offender registration and notification system.

In the event that a jurisdiction does not exactly conform to the juvenile registration requirements under SORNA, the Juvenile Supplemental Guidelines permit the SMART Office to expand its inquiry in the process of making a determination as to whether a jurisdiction has substantially implemented SORNA's juvenile registration provisions. Specifically, the Juvenile Supplemental Guidelines allow the SMART Office to review the following:

  1. Policies and practices to prosecute as adults juveniles who commit serious sex offenses
  2. Policies and practices to register juveniles adjudicated delinquent for serious sex offenses
  3. Other policies and practices to identify, track, monitor or manage juveniles adjudicated delinquent for serious sex offenses who are in the community and to ensure that the records of their identities and sex offenses are available as needed for public safety purposes

The SMART Office will determine that a jurisdiction relying on these factors has substantially implemented SORNA's juvenile registration requirement only if it concludes that these factors, in conjunction with that jurisdiction's other policies and practices, have resulted or will result in the registration, identification, tracking, monitoring or management of juveniles who commit serious sex offenses, and in the availability of the identities and sex offenses of such juveniles as needed for public safety purposes, in a manner that does not substantially disserve SORNA's objectives.

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i 34 U.S.C. §20911(8) provides that:

The term "convicted" or a variant thereof, used with respect to a sex offense, includes adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile for that offense, but only if the offender is 14 years of age or older at the time of the offense and the offense adjudicated was comparable to or more severe than aggravated sexual abuse (as described in section 2241 of title 18, United States Code [18 USCS § 2241]), or was an attempt or conspiracy to commit such an offense.

Generally speaking, 18 USC §2241 prohibits:

  • knowingly caus[ing] another person to engage in a sexual act—
    1. by using force against that other person; or
    2. by threatening or placing that other person in fear that any person will be subjected to death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping; [or
  • engaging in a sexual act with another by rendering unconscious or involuntarily drugging the victim; or
  • engaging in a sexual act with a person under the age of 12]

Under the National Guidelines, the definition of "sexual act" that jurisdictions are minimally required to use to determine whether a criminal offense is "comparable to" 18 U.S.C. §2241 is as follows:

  • engaging in a sexual act with another by force or the threat of serious violence (see 18 U.S.C. 2241(a)); or
  • engaging in a sexual act with another by rendering unconscious or involuntarily drugging the victim (see 18 U.S.C. 2241(b)).

"Sexual act" for this purpose should be understood to include any degree of genital or anal penetration, and any oral-genital or oral-anal contact.

By definition, an adjudication of delinquency for an offense "comparable to" 18 U.S.C. §2241 will result in a tier III registration classification. 34 U.S.C. §20911(4). The National Guidelines make clear the criteria to be used in determining whether an offense for which a juvenile has been adjudicated delinquent qualifies for a tier III registration:

[J]urisdictions generally may premise the determination on the elements of the offense, and are not required to look to underlying conduct that is not reflected in the offense of conviction. There is an exception to this general rule when the age of the victim might affect the tier of an offense. Jurisdictions should review Section V of the National Guidelines for additional information.

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