Congress May Revise Federal Sex Offender Law


An aggressive federal effort to keep track of sexual offenders is at risk of collapse because of objections from states and legal challenges, the New York Times reports. The three-year old law requires states to adopt strict standards for registering sex offenders; it is meant to prevent offenders from eluding authorities, especially when they move out of state. The law followed several heinous crimes by sex offenders on the run. An estimated 100,000 sex offenders are not living where they are registered, says the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Officials in many states complain about the law's cost and contend their laws are more effective than the federal one. The states suggest that the federal requirements violate their right to set their own policies and therefore may be unconstitutional, at least in part.

Despite a looming July deadline, no state has been deemed compliant with the law, and some are leaning toward ignoring major requirements. As a result, one of the toughest child-protection initiatives in the nation's history is languishing. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), plans to review the law to see if revisions are warranted. While some of the law's backers acknowledge that the states have legitimate concerns, they remain fundamentally committed to it and suggest that the delays leave a patchwork of differing state laws that keep children unnecessarily vulnerable to predators. Since the law’s passage, the U.S. Marshals Service has brought charges against 615 sex offenders for failing to register or update their registration.

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