The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act is a federal statute that was signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush on July 27, 2006. The Walsh Act organizes sex offenders into three tiers according to the crime committed, and mandates that Tier 3 offenders (the most serious tier) update their whereabouts every three months with lifetime registration requirements. Tier 2 offenders must update their whereabouts every six months with 25 years of registration, and Tier 1 offenders must update their whereabouts every year with 15 years of registration. Failure to register and update information is a felony under the law. States are required to publicly disclose information of Tier 2 and Tier 3 offenders, at minimum. It also contains civil commitment provisions for sexually dangerous people.
The Act also creates a national sex offender registry and instructs each state and territory to apply identical criteria for posting offender data on the internet (i.e., offender's name, address, date of birth, place of employment, photograph, etc.). The Act was named after Adam Walsh, an American boy who was abducted from a Florida shopping mall and later found murdered.
As of April 2014, the Justice Department reports that 17 states, three territories and 63 tribes had substantially implemented requirements of the Adam Walsh Act.
|Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act|
|Long title||An Act to protect children from sexual exploitation and violent crime, to prevent child abuse and child pornography, to promote internet safety, and to honor the memory of Adam Walsh and other child crime victims.|
|Enacted by||the 109th United States Congress|
|Public law||Pub.L. 109-248|
|U.S.C. sections created||§ 16911 et seq.|
|United States Supreme Court cases|
|United States v. Comstock, 560 U.S. ___ (2010); United States v. Kebodeaux, 570 U.S. ___ (2013)|
The Adam Walsh Act emerged from Congress following the passage of separate bills in the House and Senate (H.R. 3132 and S. 1086 respectively). The Act is also known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), the majority of the provisions of which were enacted as 42 U.S.C. §16911 et seq. The act’s provisions fall into four categories: a revised sex offender registration system, child and sex related amendments to federal criminal and procedure, child protective grant programs, and other initiatives designed to prevent and punish sex offenders and those who victimize children.
The sex offender registration provisions replace the Jacob Wetterling Act provisions with a statutory scheme under which states are required to modify their registration systems in accordance with federal requirements at the risk of losing 10% of their Byrne program law enforcement assistance funds. The act seeks to close gaps in the prior system, provide more information on a wider range of offenders, and make the information more readily available to the public and law enforcement officials.
In the area of federal criminal law and procedure, the act enlarges the kidnapping statute, increases the number of federal capital offenses, enhances the mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment and other penalties that attend various federal sex offenses, establishes a civil commitment procedure for federal sex offenders, authorizes random searches as a condition for sex offender probation and supervised release, outlaws internet date drug trafficking, permits the victims of state crimes to participate in related federal habeas corpus proceedings, and eliminates the statute of limitations for certain sex offenses and crimes committed against children.
The act revives the authorization of appropriations under the Police Athletic Youth Enrichment Act among its other grant provisions and requires the establishment of a national child abuse registry among its other child safety initiatives.
The Act also establishes a post-conviction civil commitment scheme. Section 4248 of the Act contains the Commitment Provision, which authorizes the federal government to initiate commitment proceedings with respect to any federal prisoner in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons. Under this provision, even prisoners who have never been previously charged with or convicted of a sex crime may be civilly committed after completing their entire prison sentence. Prior to Supreme Court Review, the federal Circuit courts were split on the question of whether Congress had the authority to enact this provision. On May 17, 2010, the Supreme Court upheld the law, and ruled in United States v. Comstock that the Civil Commitment Provision was within Congress‘s authority.
At the time of passage, at least 100,000 of more than a half million sex offenders in the United States and the District of Columbia were 'missing' and unregistered as required by law. The act allocated federal funding was to assist states in maintaining and improving these programs so a comprehensive system for tracking sex offenders and alerting communities would be developed.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was signed on the 25th anniversary of the abduction of Adam Walsh from a shopping mall in Florida. Adam Walsh was found murdered 16 days after his abduction in 1981, and the perpetrator was not named until December 16, 2008, when the Hollywood, Florida police department announced that they had evidence that Ottis Toole was the killer. Adam Walsh's father is John Walsh, host of the television series America's Most Wanted. John Walsh, also founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), was joined by other children's advocates to mount an aggressive campaign to get the bill passed into law. As part of the campaign, Walsh was joined by Congressman Sensenbrenner, representatives from the NCMEC, and other victims' advocates and parents. These included Patty Wetterling, children's advocate from Minnesota and mother of Jacob Wetterling, who was abducted and murdered in October 1989; Mark Lunsford, whose daughter Jessica was killed in Florida in 2005; Linda Walker, the mother of North Dakota college student Dru Sjodin who was kidnapped and murdered by a released Minnesota sex offender in November 2003; and Erin Runnion, whose five-year-old daughter Samantha Runnion was raped and killed in California in 2002.
Registration requirements are defined by the type of offense the person was convicted. Convictions are classified into three tiers. Tier 3 offenders register for life. Tier 2 offenders register for at least 25 years after conviction. Tier 1 offenders register for ten to fifteen years after release. Tier I registrants may be excluded from internet database, with exemption of those convicted of "specified offense against a minor."
Sex offenders that are 14 years of age or older at the time of the crime are required to register if they fit into the most serious tier (Tier 3), or were tried as adults.
In some states the Adam Walsh Act (AWA) effectively expanded the registries as much as 500%. Since its enactment, critics have expressed concerns about the act's scope and breadth. Several sex offenders were prosecuted under its regulations before any state adopted AWA. This has resulted in one life sentence for failure to register, due to the offender being homeless and not being able to maintain a physical address. The Adam Walsh Act requires anyone convicted of a sex crime to register as a sex offender where it will be posted on the internet for all to see.
A study conducted in Ohio found that retroactive AWA reclassification increased the number of offenders and altered their placement in management categories. Prior to implementation of AWA in Ohio 76% of adult and 88% of juvenile offenders were designated on the least restrictive category or did not have to register at all, while only 20% of adults and 5% of juveniles were classified as "sexual predators", the most restrictive category. Following reclassification this basic pattern was reversed, with 13% of adults and 22% of juveniles placed in Tier 1, 31% of adults and 32% of juveniles placed in Tier 2, and 55% of adults and 46% of juveniles placed in the highest and most restrictive Tier 3. 41% of adults and 43% of juveniles previously in lowest category and 59% of adults and 45% of juveniles who were not previously registered at all were assigned to Tier 3.
A collateral effect of the new legislation was its implications on the United States Permanent Resident Card process. Until January 2007, U.S. nationals living abroad who married a local and intended to obtain green cards for their spouse and any immediate family members were able to initiate and complete the majority of the application process at the local U.S. Embassy/Consulate. However, because of the newly enhanced background check and criminal history data trail requirements, the new law had initially been interpreted by the Bureau of Consular Affairs and USCIS as leaving Consular officers ill-equipped to fully handle the I-130 adjucation process. Thus, as of January 2007, I-130 petitions, supporting documentation, or fee payments could no longer be completed in the country of the foreign national.
However, the government reversed this decision only two months later. Due to a significant number of complaints from applicants about the resulting processing delays and from immigration officials about the large amount of paperwork that came with the centralization of the process, the visa petitioning process for immediate relatives of US citizens was resumed at U.S. embassies on March 21, 2007. However, all embassies were required to add a 6-month residency requirement for the US Citizen to file an application directly.
The Act also for the first time limits the rights of citizens or permanent residents to petition to immigrate their spouse or other relatives to the U.S. if the petitioner has a listed child sex abuse conviction. If that is the case, then the petition cannot be approved unless the Department of Homeland Security determines in its unreviewable discretion that there is no risk of harm to the beneficiary or derivative beneficiary.
The Federal Record Keeping and Labeling Requirements Laws have been attached to this bill (18 USC 2257). This will require secondary producers to be responsible for the record keeping procedures primary producers gather when they produce pornography.