abajournal.com : Crime Registries Under Fire:
Adam Walsh Act mandates sex offender lists, but some say it’s unconstitutional.
Two years ago, Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.
Included in the Walsh Act is the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which establishes a national sex offender registry and creates three classifications of sex offenders. The most serious group is required to register within three days after moving to a new state or face up to 10 years’ imprisonment. The law also makes it mandatory for states to maintain an online registry accessible to the public.
Most federal courts—spurning critics who contend that Congress exceeded its authority by encroaching on state and local control—have upheld SORNA.
But at least two courts this year have sided with the critics and invalidated some or all of the registry law. In both rulings, the courts referred back to a line of U.S. Supreme Court cases from the 1990s that limited the federal government’s reach into state law. Meanwhile, a third federal court temporarily halted the new law until it had a chance to hear arguments on the issue.
More is at stake than just the sex offender registries, observers say. Americans have become accustomed to national crime registries, and courts could throw them into doubt. “Not surprisingly, given our increasing sense of informational entitlement and disdain for criminal offenders, we are seeing registration and notification laws spread to other subgroups, such as domestic abusers,” says Florida State University law professor Wayne A. Logan, author of the forthcoming book Knowledge as Power: A History of Criminal Registration Laws in America.
Also up for grabs is the future of the U.S. Supreme Court’s line of federalism cases.
...The Walsh Act is the most far-reaching and may present the perfect opportunity for the Supreme Court to sink its teeth into such laws, Logan says.
The act “represents a zenith in federal demands on states with respect to registration and community notification,” he says. “Among other things, the law significantly expands the scope of registration eligibility and requires, for the first time, use of in-person verification and a conviction-based registration classification scheme. The states are expected to make major changes to their regimes, at significant trouble and cost.”