skip to main content

H.R. 324 (103rd): Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Registration Act

The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act (the Wetterling Act) is a United States law that requires states to implement a sex offender and crimes against children registry. It is named for Jacob Wetterling, a Minnesota eleven-year-old who was abducted by a stranger in 1989, and was missing for almost 27 years until his death was confirmed when his remains were found on September 1, 2016.

The law, enacted as part of the Federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, requires states to form registries of offenders convicted of sexually violent offenses or offenses against children, and to form more rigorous registration requirements for sex offenders. States must also verify the addresses of sex offenders annually for at least ten years, and those offenders classified as sexually violent predators must verify their addresses quarterly for the rest of their lives. The Wetterling Act required state compliance by September 1997, with a two-year extension for good faith efforts to achieve compliance; non-compliance would result in a 10% reduction of federal block grant funds for criminal justice.

Under this law, states had discretion to disseminate registration information to the public, but dissemination was not required. Congress amended the Wetterling Act in 1996 with Megan’s Law, requiring law enforcement agencies to release information about registered sex offenders that law enforcement deems relevant to protecting the public. Also passed by Congress in 1996 was the Pam Lyncher Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act. This act requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to establish a national database of sex offenders to assist local enforcement agencies in tracking sex offenders across state lines.

The Wetterling Act was amended for the final time in 1998 with Section 115 of the General Provisions of Title I of the Departments of Commerce, Justice and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (CJSA). The CJSA amendment provided for greater discretion among states for procedures used for contacting registered offenders to keep their addresses updated. Also, the CJSA required offenders to register in a state other than their own if they were there for school, and required federal and military employees to register in their state of residence.

This summary is from Wikipedia.

Last updated Oct 11, 2018. Source: Wikipedia

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Nov 20, 1993.

Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Registration Act - Directs the Attorney General to establish guidelines for State programs requiring persons convicted of a criminal offense against a minor to register a current address with a designated State law enforcement agency (LEA) for ten years after being released from prison or being placed on parole, supervised release, or probation. Sets forth requirements for an approved State registration program, including requirements to: (1) inform persons of their duty to register and obtain the information required for such registration; (2) inform such persons of requirements applicable if they change residence to another State; (3) obtain fingerprints and a photograph; and (4) enter information into the State law enforcement record system. Directs the officer (or, in the case of a person placed on probation, the court) to forward required information to the designated State LEA, which shall immediately transmit the conviction data and fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Provides that the information collected under a State registration program shall be treated as private data on individuals and may be disclosed only to LEAs for investigative purposes or to government agencies conducting confidential background checks with fingerprints on applicants for child care positions or other positions involving contact with children. Requires a person who has been convicted of an offense which triggered registration in a State to register a new address with a designated LEA in another State to which the person moves within ten days of establishing residence in the new State, if such State has a registration requirement. Subjects a person required to register under a State program who knowingly fails to register and keep such registration current to criminal penalties in that State. Specifies that the allocation of Bureau of Justice Assistance grant funds under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 received by a State not complying with the provisions of this Act within three years may be reduced by ten percent. Requires such unallocated funds to be reallocated to the States in compliance with this Act.