NOTICE: The last day to comment is October 13th
We need people to visit the Federal Register website today and submit comments on a rule change to the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).
From out Legislative Director:
I have read over the proposed rule change to the SORNA Legislation (28 CFR 72). Please find my explanation on what is being outlined below.
What we are commenting on here is a modification the the wording of the Federal SORNA passed in 2006. Specifically, the rule change codifies the requirements of state registration schemes on a federal level. While these requirements always existed, they were more like “guidelines” that states were encouraged to adopt. Since last year, the courts have determined that the US Attorney General (AG) has the right to “interpret and implement” the requirements of SORNA. This rule change puts this in very clear writing and seeks to pressure the states and territories to get in line.
What we are commenting on is the attempt by the US to bend States’ wills and adopt the federal requirements written in SORNA (using the tier system that the Feds outline, the registration periods and durations, the information collected, etc). This would mean abandoning the decisions that each state / territory has made on their own as to what is best regarding their registry. States generally want to adopt these federal guidelines because it means more federal funding for their state law enforcement programs (JAG funding). Most states are not fully compliant today, however.
Further, the pressure that this rule change creates opens the possibility that states could pass a simple state law declaring that people on the registry “must comply with the requirements of the federal SORNA” (instead of the comply with the requirements of that State’s registration scheme). In theory, this would be an acceptable way of coming into full compliance with Fed. SORNA requirements.
This potential easy fix might seem attractive to states because they wouldn’t have to do the legislative and legal wrangling of finding what is right vs. wrong, civil registry vs punishment, constitutional vs. unconstitutional. This one-size-fits-all state law would simply state “we need you to do whatever the Feds say.” As a bonus, the states get more JAG funding.
The Rule Change (28 CFR 72) does not come out and say this, but it is something that advocates must be aware of in each state.
This isn’t about Michigan or punishment or effectiveness of the registry. This is about the coercion of States’ rights away from self-determination and the power of the Feds to unfairly impose their will on States.
Thus, our comments need to be focused on this issue and primarily this issue: States’ rights.
Public comments should read something like:
“The proposal by the AG creates conditions that could impose federal regulations on states that have their own ideas about how to best create and maintain SO Registries. This proposed rule change needs to be removed because it is an attack on States’ Rights. The rule change pushes States into a corner and coerces them to give up their own schemes in lieu of SORNA’s one-size-fits-all scheme because they fear losing JAG funding.”
Please visit the Federal Register website NOW and submit a comment similar to the quote above.
If this rule change passes, the worst case seems to be that the entire country would be under the Fed’s SORNA requirements. There would be no more state by state determination of how long, how often, what crimes, etc.
This scenario depends on States rolling over and accepting that the Feds can dictate laws affecting their state’s residents.
When it come to people on the registry, I am not confident that State Legislature’s would be willing to fight for States’ Rights.
On the plus side:
“the rule will benefit sex offenders by providing a clear and comprehensive statement of their registration obligations under SORNA.”
(NOTE: The Sixth Circuit Willman decision is a separate issue that just happened to occur around the same time. We are not commenting on that here.)