Understanding Sex Offender Searches
As states succumb to increasing pressure to protect our children, more and more sex offender information is released to the public. However, many states still have laws that restrict which offenders will become part of the “registry” and which names on the registry will be released to the public. In many cases, who becomes part of the public sex offender database is not decided by statute, but by the judges, psychologists, social workers, and other clinicians who work for the courts. In other words, the protection of your children, employees, and neighborhoods is not based upon any objective criteria, but on someone’s opinion.
After an “evaluation’ by the court an offender will be assigned a risk level. This level is less dependant upon the seriousness of the crime, than on the court’s opinion as to the likelihood that the convict will re-offend. Many states, but not all, use a risk level of 1, 2, or 3 (level1 being the least likely to re-offend and 3 being the most likely). Although all offenders who commit some crimes may be required by federal and state law to register, not all registered offenders will be revealed to the public via the state’s sex offender database. In New Jersey and California, for example, about 25% of sex offenders are withheld from public view because they are “low risk” offenders. Moreover, in most states, if an offender chooses not to register as required, he/she will not be part of the public access database. Unfortunately, offenders are not automatically registered upon conviction. They must register themselves upon release into the community.