History of Sex Crimes Laws

Prior to 1994 no sex crimes laws were enabled that could aid law enforcement in solving other cases against sex offenders or track a known sex offender publicly or privately. In October, 1989, Jacob Wetterling was just 11-years-old when he was abducted from his home in Minnesota at gunpoint by a masked man. While conducting an investigation, police learned that halfway houses in the area were housing sex offenders, but there was no list of these offenders to aid with their search. Thus began the many laws passed by Congress and state specific programs to register persons who were convicted of sexually violent offenses.

The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act is a U.S. law enacted as part of the Federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. This law was established to create the first sex offender and crimes against children registry. It set guidelines so that states could track sex offenders and made it mandatory for states to keep track of the residences of sex offenders for 10 years after their release back into the community or quarterly for the rest of the offender’s life if they were convicted of a violent sex crime.

Congress amended the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act of 1994 with Megan’s Law in 1996. This law required law enforcement to disclose sex offender registration information to the public. On the Federal scale, Megan’s Law is formally known as the Sexual Offender Act and mandates that all convicted sex offenders disclose their personal information such as address changes or employment status and location to local law enforcement for a fixed period of time, usually at least 10 years to life.

The Pam Lychner Sex Offender Tracking and Identification Act of 1996 was passed by Congress to establish a national database for the FBI to be able to track certain sex offenders and help local law enforcement track these individual when they relocated across state lines. This law made it necessary for the FBI to sporadically verify the addresses of certain sex offenders and required the FBI be notified when certain sex offenders moved to other areas of the United States.

The Jacob Wetterling Improvements Act of 1997 amended the registration requirements for sexually violent offenders.  This Federal Law states that sexually violent offenders must register in their state of residence as well as any other area where they work or are enrolled in school. A motion from Congress was attached to this Act that created laws against the stalking of minors.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998 designed federal laws to protect children from predators, child pornography and sexual abuse as well as prohibited the transfer of obscene material to minors. This Act enabled the Department of Justice to implement the Sex Offender Management Assistance program to help qualified states fulfill registration requirements. It also Banned federal funding to programs that allowed federal prisoners internet use without regulation.

The Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act of 2000 amends the Wetterling Act on a federal level and requires a registered sex offender to notify the institute of higher education where employed or attended as a student of his or her status as a sex offender as well as any changes in employment or enrollment should they occur.

The Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act of 2003 is a law enacted by the United States to help prevent child abuse. This law mandates a life sentence to any sex offender that has had prior convictions of abusing a minor. It established a program for volunteer organizations to get criminal background checks for any volunteers. It also eliminated a statute of limitations for any child abduction or abuse case.

Jessica’s Law is the common name given to a 2005 Florida law and several other states formally known as the Jessica Lunsford Act. This law was designed to reduce sex offender’s ability to commit more crimes of the same genre. This Act orders a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison with lifetime electronic monitoring of adults convicted of lewd or lascivious acts on a victim under the age of 12 years old.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 is a federal statute that organizes sex offenders into three separate tiers. The first tier requires sex offenders to update their whereabouts yearly for 15 years after their release back into the community. The second tier requires sex offenders update their whereabouts every six months for 25 years after their release. The third and most serious tier requires sex offenders update their whereabouts every three months for life. Failure to register at designated times is a felony.

Keeping the Internet Devoid of Predators Act (KIDS Act) of 2008 is a Federal law that Requires convicted sex offenders to register online identifiers such as e-mail addresses and instant messaging screen names. If a registrant fails to provide this information, a 10-year prison sentence could be the result. This law also demands mandatory prison time for any online user who misrepresents his or her age to participate in sexual activity with a minor.