A sex offender is a person who has been criminally charged and convicted of, or has pled guilty to, or plead Nolo contendere to a sex crime. Crimes requiring mandatory sex offender registration may include downloading pornographic material of persons under the age of 18, (child pornography), rape, statutory rape and even non-sexual offenses such as kidnapping.
The term sexual offender is a broad term, with sexual predator being used to describe a more severe physical or repeat offenses. They are also sometimes classified into levels, where the highest level offenders have the most aggravating crimes and thus, the most risk to the public and usually must register as a sex offender for their entire lives. Low level offenders may serve only a probationary sentence and only register for 10 years as well as having less restrictions placed on them compared to higher level offenders. As a label of identity it is used in criminal psychology. Especially in the United States and the United Kingdom, the person, if convicted, is most likely required to register with the respective jurisdiction’s sex offender registry, a county- or statewide database that is often public and accessible to everyone through the internet.
What is a Sexual Predator?
A sexual predator is a person who was designated as a sexually violent predator between July 1, 1996, and June 30, 2006; or a person who is determined by the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board to be at risk of perpetrating any future dangerous offense.
The U.S. Congress passed several laws that require states to implement registries for crimes against children:
- Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act
- Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act
- Megan’s Law
Since Megan’s Law was passed, it is required by law for all offenders to register with their local police department. Unfortunately, budgetary restraints make it impossible for this vital information to be communicated to each parent in every community.
On March 5, 2003, the United States Supreme Court ruled that information about potential predators may be publicly posted on the Internet.
Finding Sexual Offender Records
While the contents of state sex offender registries are public records and you have the right to see them, access is often difficult. Often, you must know the name of the individual for which you are looking and, in many states, you must go to your local police station and complete an information request form. In some states, there are fees and search limits. Many states now maintain registry web sites, but these often have limited functionality and there is no official nationwide government online registry.
The following websites allow you to search registries to locate registered offenders.
- National Sex Offender Registry
- Sexual Offenders – Allows citizens to share information they have about criminal offenders, exchange links and post comments in a blog format. The site is updated daily with links to state and county registries, sheriff’s offices and news of sex crimes and related prosecution from around the world.
- Offender Search