Background on the National Sex Offenders Registry
Our Crimes Against Children Unit at FBI Headquarters coordinated the development of the National Sex Offenders Registry (NSOR), which is currently managed by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.
The Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act of 1996 (Lychner Act) required the Attorney General to establish a national database at the FBI to track the whereabouts and movements of certain convicted sex offenders under Title 42 of the United States Code Section 14072. The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) run by the FBI enables the NSOR to retain the offender’s current registered address and dates of registration, conviction, and residence.
The Lychner Act imposed two major obligations on the FBI that became effective October 3, 1997:
1. To establish a national database that tracks the location and movements of each person who has been convicted of a criminal offense against a victim who is a minor, has been convicted of a sexually violent offense, or is a sexually violent predator.
2. To register and verify the addresses of sex offenders who reside in states without a “minimally sufficient” sex offender registry (SOR) program. Today, all 50 states have minimally sufficient SOR programs.
Under the Act, the FBI may release relevant information to federal, state, and local criminal justice agencies for law enforcement purposes only. Public notification will only be made if it is necessary to protect the public. However, the Act specifically states that in no case shall the FBI release the identity of any victim of an offense that required registration of a sex offender.
The legislation also made it a criminal offense for a registered sex offender to move to another state and knowingly fail to notify the FBI and authorities in the new state. Notification to the FBI and state authorities must be made within 10 days upon moving to a new state and/or establishing residence following release from prison or placed on parole, supervised release, or probation. Upon release, each sex offender is notified of their lawful duty to register with the FBI and appropriate local authorities.
The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexual Violent Offender Registration Program, enacted in 1994, provides a financial incentive for states to establish registration programs for persons who have been convicted of certain sex crimes.
Megan’s Law, enacted in May 1996, amended the Wetterling Program legislation to give states broad discretion to determine to whom notification should be made about offenders, under what circumstances, and about which offenders.