The Adam Walsh Act also contains provisions for sentencing of child sexual abusers and
tracking convicted sex offenders. The Act created a federal DNA database of convicted sex
offenders and funds programs that track offenders using Global Positioning System
monitoring.130 Additionally, the Act not only eliminated the statute of limitations for prosecution
of child abduction and felony child sexual offenses, but also imposed mandatory minimum
sentencing for sex crimes involving children.131 Although this Act created federal minimum
standards, which states are required to meet, states continue to pass individual laws about sex
offenders in their communities.132
D. Trends in State Law: Jessica’s Law
In 2005 in Homosassa, Florida, a neighbor of the Lunsford family, who was a convicted
sex offender, abducted nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford from her home.133 He sexually assaulted
Jessica in his trailer across the street and then murdered her.134 The Florida legislature reacted by
passing the Jessica Lunsford Act (informally known as “Jessica’s Law”), which both created a
mandatory minimum sentence for sex crimes perpetrated against children, and required lifetime
electronic monitoring of those convicted.135 Jessica’s Law required that criminal sex offenders
who abuse children under the age of twelve face a mandatory minimum sentence of twenty-five
years and should they recidivate upon release, would be subject to an immediate life sentence.136
By 2011, forty-four other states had passed laws similar to Jessica’s Law—all mandating harsh
sentencing for child sex offenders—thirty-nine of which allow for electronic tracking of those
E. Results of the First Wave of Reform
During the first wave of legislative reform, each variation of federal and state legislation
required further amendment, definition, and regulation.138 When the original registration laws did
not deter sexual predators, legislatures and society turned to notification laws.139 When the
registration and community notification laws proved ineffective, legislatures then created harsher
punishments and additional requirements for convicted sexual offenders.140 Now, as evidenced by
the wide adoption of Jessica’s Law, states are turning to more specific regulation of sexual
predators through physical monitoring, residency requirements, and mandatory sentencing.141 As
a result, communities are beginning to see unintended consequences of this legislation.
1. Motivations Behind First-Wave Legislation: Fear and Public Outcry
130 ZILNEY & ZILNEY, supra note 58, at 93; Michelle L. Meloy & Shareda Coleman, GPS Monitoring of Sex Offenders, in SEX
OFFENDER LAWS: FAILED POLICIES, NEW DIRECTIONS 243, 245 (Richard G. Wright ed., 2009). There are three typical methods of
tracking offenders: active, passive, and hybrid. Id. Active tracking involves wearing a device that provides updates regarding the
offenders’ locations every few minutes. Id. Passive trackers simply update all of the information about the offenders’ location one
time per day. Id. Hybrid tracking switches a tracker into active mode at the first sign of a violation, but it otherwise remains passive.
131 Id. (noting that rape of a child is thirty years minimum, sexual trafficking of a child is ten years minimum, and coerced child
prostitution is ten years minimum).
132 Terry & Ackerman, supra note 54, at 90.
133 Wilson, supra note 7, at 517; Drifter Says He Held Girl for Three Days, CNN (June 24, 2005),
134 Drifter Says He Held Girl for Three Days, supra note 133.
135 Wilson, supra note 7, at 517–18; ZILNEY & ZILNEY, supra note 58, at 91.
136 Kate Sheppard, To Cash in on a Predator, MOTHER JONES (Nov./Dec. 2011),
137 Id. Of those forty-four states, thirty-nine allow for sexual offenders to be electronically monitored upon release, and twenty-four
permit this monitoring to include GPS tracking. Id. Mark Lunsford, Jessica’s father, and activist for the passage of the law in other
states, said at an event in California promoting the law, “Instead of them stalking our children, let’s stalk them.” Id.
138 Terry & Ackerman, supra note 54, at 90.