How does the sex offender registry work?

The Tennessee sex offender registry program collects and tracks very detailed information about people convicted of some sex crimes.

When a person is arrested and charged with a criminal offense in Tennessee, many concerns can come rushing to their mind. One of the concerns may well be the long-term implications of any consequences associated with a conviction for the particular offense. When it comes to many types of sex crimes, one of the most serious consequences may be the required participation in the state's sex offender registry program.

Philosophy of the registry program

In 2004, the state passed the Tennessee Sex Offender and Violent Sex Offender Registration, Verification and Tracking Act. The goal of the law was to collect information from and monitor people convicted of sexual offenses. In acknowledging the potential invasion of privacy for defendants, the State asserted that the need to ensure public safety superseded a defendant's right to privacy.

A law continually updated and strengthened

Over the years, updates have been made to the law that seem to only make things more restrictive for people convicted of sex crimes. In 2009, changes were enacted that followed the federal Adam Walsh Act. These changes prohibited any person convicted of a sexual offense involving a child from driving a vehicle such as an ice cream truck or fire truck that may attract children, from wearing clothes or costumes that may impersonate a character or occupation that could attract minors, and from holding any job that would cause the offender to be in direct or unsupervised contact with a minor.

In addition, the 2009 updates mandated that registrants provide their full criminal histories not just details of the offense for which they were required to register. The registry also collected detailed physical descriptions of people.

In 2017, another update stipulated that some people would be monitored by satellite and supervised if they failed to have a primary or secondary residence and had multiple convictions from another state or were on probation for one of seven selected offenses. These seven offenses included several involving minors such as aggravated statutory rape. It is important to know that in Tennessee the age of consent is 18.

Registration is not a one-time event

A person who must register as a sexual offender is required to provide updates to the State on a regular basis. People deemed to be violent offenders whether adults or juveniles must update some of their registry data four times per year. Others must provide these updates once per year within seven days of their birthdays. At these updates, new photos, palm and fingerprints are taken.

In addition, a registrant must inform authorities of any change in school, employment or residence within 48 hours even if the change is in a different state. Any new or changed online identity must also be provided to the State within three business days.

Help for people facing sex crime charges

Clearly the ramifications of a sex crime conviction are serious and long-lasting. People facing these charges in Tennessee should always contact an attorney for help in identifying their best options to protect their rights.