Tribal Court Clearinghouse          

The Adam Walsh Act: Impact on Indian Tribes

Notice: Non PL 280 tribes that do not pass a tribal resolution by July 27, 2007 will automatically delegate jurisdiction over sex offender registration to the state.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (PL 109-248) (SORNA) was signed into law on the 25 anniversary of the abduction and murder of Adam Walsh (son of John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted) on July 27, 2006.

  • The Act expands the National Sex Offender Registry. It requires that all states and tribes that decided to “opt in” participate in an integrated, uniform registry system. All law enforcement will have access to the same information across the United States, helping prevent sex offenders from evading detection by moving from state to state or reservation to state. The U.S. Attorney General’s Office is required to develop the software for the system.
  • Certain information from the Registry will be available to the public on an internet site.
  • The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) provides tough mandatory minimum penalties for most serious crimes against children and increases penalties for crimes such as sex trafficking of children and child prostitution.
  • It is a felony for a sex offender to fail to register.
  • Sex offenders must register more frequently and in person.
  • It provides grants to help institutionalize sex offenders who have shown they cannot change their behavior and are about to be released from prison.
  • It authorizes new regional Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforces that will provide funding and training to help State and local law enforcement combat crimes involving the sexual exploitation of minors on the Internet.
  • It creates a new National Child Abuse Registry and requires investigators to do background checks of adoptive and foster parents before they are approved to take custody to a child.
  • Non-Public Law 280 tribes must pass a resolution or other enactment indicating their intention and desire to participate in the national system and meet the requirements of SORNA. Even if a tribe already has its own sex offender registry, it must pass this resolution if it wants to participate. If it does not pass a resolution within that time, it will be taken as a delegation of the responsibility to manage a sex offender registry to the state, and the state will be granted access to the tribal territory to implement the law. A tribe electing to function as a Registry may enter into cooperative agreements with the state to share responsibilities.
  • If the tribe is affected by PL 280, the state is automatically responsible for the implementation of Sex Offender Registration on the reservation (regardless of whether the tribe may have already implemented registry) and the tribe must provide the access and cooperate with the state.
  • Funds and software will be made available.
  • The Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART) office was created to administer national standards for sex offender registration and notification.

Action Needed

  1. Every non-PL 280 tribe that wants to manage its own sex offender registry and notification system must pass a resolution or other enactment indicating its intention to implement a sex offender registration system which complies with the Adam Walsh Act (SORNA) before July 27, 2007.
  2. The Tribe must send a copy of the resolution or other enactment via certified mail to the SMART Office c/o Leslie A. Hagen. Her address is: Leslie Hagen, SMART Office, Office of Justice Programs, Department of Justice, 810 7th Street, NW, Suite 8241, Washington DC 20531.
  3. A Tribe electing to participate in the system has until July 27, 2009 to fully comply with all the requirements of the law, but must make its election before July 27, 2007.

Tribal elections regarding registration or delegation should be sent to the SMART Office, within the U.S. Department of Justice. Leslie Hagen is assigned to work specifically on Indian Country issues related to Adam Walsh. Ms. Hagen can be reached by email at or by telephone at 202- 616-6459.

Her mailing address at the SMART office is:

Leslie Hagen
SMART Office/Office of Justice Programs
U.S. Department of Justice
810 7th Street, NW
Suite 8241
Washington, DC 20531

The general email address for questions related to Adam Walsh is:

OJP will be holding a Tribal Consultation on the Adam Walsh Act on June 4, 2007 in Shelton, Washington.

Click Here to Review the proposed Guidelines for implementing the programs of the Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) Office within the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs.

Click on the following links for important documents related to the Adam Walsh Act:

Related Articles:

Sarah Deer’s Article in Indian Country Today.


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