November is Child Safety Protection Month. This is our second post dedicated to Federal and State laws to protect children and ensure their safety. Last week we outlined the protections provided in the Virginia Child Passenger Safety Laws. Today, particularly in light of several recent Amber Alerts in Virginia, I want to outline the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act is a federal statute signed into law in 2006. The “long title” of the act is: “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.”
These are the salient points:
- It establishes a three-level structure for categorizing sex offenders according to the crime committed. Tier 3 offenders (the most dangerous) must 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. Tier 1 offenders must update their whereabouts every year with 15 years of registration required. Failure to update and register is a felony.
- The act establishes a national registry of sex offenders. States must publicly disclose information about sex offenders in Tiers 2 and 3, as a minimum. The information must be the same in every state, and it must be posted on the internet. The information includes: offender’s name, address, date of birth, place of employment, and photograph.
- Changes to federal criminal law and procedure: it broadens the kidnapping statute, increases the number of federal capital offenses, and expands mandatory minimum imprisonment and other penalties for various sex offenses.
- It establishes a civil commitment procedure for federal sex offenders, authorizes random searches as a condition of probation and supervised release of sex offenders.
- It outlaws internet “date drug” trafficking.
- It permits the victims of state crimes to participate in related federal habeas corpus proceedings.
- It eliminates the statute of limitations for certain sex offenses and crimes committed against children.
- It authorizes and creates a post-conviction civil commitment process. This authorizes the federal government to initiate commitment proceedings against any federal prisoner in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons. Even prisoners who were never charged with or convicted of a sex crime may be civilly committed after serving their entire prison sentence.
- It increased the mandatory minimum incarceration period to 25 years for kidnapping or maiming a child and to 30 years for sex with a child under the age of 12, or for sexually assaulting a child between the ages of 13 and 17.
- Increased penalties for sex trafficking of children and child prostitution.
- Created a national child abuse/neglect registry to protect children from being placed into the care of or adopted by people convicted of child abuse or child neglect.
The United States is the only nation with a publicly accessible sex offender registry. Other nations make the registry available only to law enforcement. Because some states do not include all sex offenders in their registry, there may be some differences in the registries for individual states.
It should be noted that there have been objections to this statute, particularly over the registry. The Supreme Court has upheld the law twice.
The Sex Offender and Crimes against Minors Registry program is statutorily provided through Chapter 9, of Title 9.1 of the Code of Virginia. It can be accessed here.
It is possible to conduct a search to learn if there are any sex offenders in your neighborhood. www.homefacts.com/offenders/Virginia.html