FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2010-04-30
National and state sex offender registries seem to expand by the day as an increasing number of people are forced to register. Originally, the purpose of the registry was to inform the public of sex offenders living nearby who might reoffend against adults or children.
At the center of the sex offender registry is the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which was signed into federal law in 2006 and establishes three categories of sex offenders. Tier 3 offenders (considered the most dangerous) must register for life and update their whereabouts every three months. This was the beginning of the national sex offender registry, and it was designed to protect and inform private citizens.
States like Texas are forced to comply with the Adam Walsh Act, and with its sex offender registry guidelines, or face federal funding cuts.
Many argue that the Adam Walsh Act is far too broad, including offenses that are not sexual in nature. The problem is that the breadth of the legislation dilutes the impact of registration, as many of the people on the list have not actually committed sex offenses. For example, crimes like false imprisonment and kidnapping are included in this law, and people convicted of these crimes could have to register as sex offenders.
Men and women who slip up once with a non-sex-related crime may be branded as sex offenders. Their lives will be forever altered, as sex offenders are restricted from living and working near children and from holding certain types of jobs.
Many officials believe that the sex offender registry in Texas and elsewhere would be more effective if it were limited in scope. People convicted of rape, molestation, indecency with a child and other related crimes seem to be far more dangerous to allow near children than a 16-year-old boy convicted of false imprisonment during a childhood prank.