What is SORNA?

SORNA refers to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act which is Title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-248).  SORNA sets forth new minimum standards regarding sex offender registration and notification that the federal government wants each state to adopt.

What are the ramifications of SORNA?

Generally speaking, SORNA will require each state to:

  1. provide that any incarcerated or currently supervised person who has been convicted of any sex offense will be required to register as a sex offender, regardless of whether that person was required to register at the time of his or her conviction or plea,
  2. greatly increases the registration period for sex offenders,
  3. add numerous restrictions and requirements to sex offender registration.

Have all states implemented SORNA?

No. Currently there are about 40 states that have not implemented SORNA.

Will all states implement SORNA?

There is no way to say for sure. If a given state does not implement SORNA, the federal government will withhold grant money from that state. However, some states have realized that the costs associated with implementing SORNA will largely outweigh the monies that they would lose by not implementing.

Isn't it unconstitutional to change laws retroactively?

Yes, if the laws are punitive; that is, if they impair or take away vested rights, affect an accrued substantive right, impose new or additional burdens, duties, obligations, or liabilities as to a past transaction, or create a new right. Unfortunately several supreme courts have ruled that registration requirements are not punitive, and instead are remedial in that they have been designed solely to protect the public.

More recently, however, the Ohio Supreme Court decided that the additional burdens associated with SORNA have gone beyond remedial, and are now punitive. They reversed a conviction where a man was held to the new conditions of SORNA even though his plea was entered prior to Ohio's implementing SORNA.

The court had this to say: "We conclude that as to a sex offender whose crime was committed prior to the enactment of S.B. 10, the act “imposes new or additional burdens, duties, obligations, or liabilities as to a past transaction and “create[s] new burdens, new duties, new obligations, or new liabilities not existing at the time”…."2007 Am.Sub.S.B. No. 10 cannot be applied retroactively to any defendant who committed a sex offense prior to its enactment, as this violates Section 28, Article II of the Ohio Constitution, which prohibits the General Assembly from passing retroactive laws."

Does the Ohio Supreme Court ruling apply to my state of residence?

No. It is up to each state's supreme court to determine whether retroactive application of SORNA is unconstitutional.

Will I be subjected to the new rules if I am convicted?

If you are convicted of any sex offense, and your resident state has implemented the conditions of SORNA, yes you will be subjected to the harsh penalties. This is why it is more important then ever to hire an attorney who has extensive experience defending against sexual offense charges. A general practice attorney will not likely have the means necessary to provide you with a proper defense.