Notification laws are primarily designed to make the information about offenders available to the
public directly, rather than simply to assist local law enforcement.102
Congress did not renew the Jacob Wetterling Act and Megan’s Law, however, because it
passed new legislation in 2006 governing the registration and notification of sexual offenders.103
In the Adam Walsh Act, Congress limited the discretion of the states and established new
guidelines for registry and notification.104
C. The Adam Walsh Act and SORNA
In the 1980s, a number of children went missing, inspiring a national reform effort to
increase assistance for families with missing children.105 One of those children was six-year-old
Adam Walsh, who was abducted from a shopping mall in Florida in 1981 and then murdered.106
Adam Walsh’s story, and the foundation created in his honor, led to the establishment of the
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (“NCMEC”) in 1984.107 NCMEC was
created to provide assistance to law enforcement to “find missing children, eliminate child sexual
exploitation and prevent child victimization.”108 Congress has authorized NCMEC to perform
specific tasks related to these goals including, among others, operating a national hotline for
information regarding missing children, providing training to law enforcement agencies,
operating a cyber tip line for reporting internet-related child exploitation, and disseminating
information about child exploitation.109
Adam’s legacy was honored again in 2006 when Congress passed The Adam Walsh
Child Protection and Safety Act.110 The Adam Walsh Act replaced the Jacob Wetterling Act with
more explicit instructions about the registration of sexual offenders, leaving less discretion to the
individual states.111 Title I of the Adam Walsh Act is the Sex Offender Registration and
Notification Act (“SORNA”), which provides basic guidelines for compliance with the Act.112
Further, the Act created the Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering,
and Tracking Office (“SMART”), a new administrative agency charged with issuing guidelines to
be used when implementing SORNA.113
The Adam Walsh Act imposes a new set of requirements on states in relation to their
management of convicted sexual offenders. The idea behind the Act was to establish a
comprehensive national database so that each state could access the information about sex
offenders.114 SORNA specifically outlines how and when a sex offender must register with the
102 Id. at 165.
103 Terry & Ackerman, supra note 54, at 90; Wilson, supra note 7, at 517.
104 Wilson, supra note 7, at 516; 42 U.S.C.A. § 14071 (West 2014) (repealed 2006).
105 Our History, NAT’L CTR. FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILD., http://www.missingkids.com/History (last visited Mar. 14, 2014).
108 Congressional Authorization, NAT’L CTR. FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILD., http://www.missingkids.com/Authorization (last
visited Mar. 14, 2014).
110 Wilson, supra note 7, at 516; 42 U.S.C.A. §16901 (West 2014). In 2003 Congress also passed the Prosecutorial Remedies and
Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today (“PROTECT”) Act, which dealt primarily with child abduction and
pornography, but included provisions imposing mandatory life sentences for sex offenders who abused children if they had a prior
conviction relating to a minor. See PROTECT Act of 2003, Pub. L. No. 108-21, 117 Stat. 650.
111 Wilson, supra note 7, at 517.
112 Id.; Corey Rayburn Yung, The Ticking Sex-Offender Bomb, 15 J. GENDER, RACE & JUST. 81, 103 (2012); 42 U.S.C.A. § 16912.
113 Yung, supra note 112, at 104. The Act is funded by a budget of forty-seven million dollars to sustain the programs that it created.
ZILNEY & ZILNEY, supra note 58, at 92.