Understanding Military Sex Offender Registration


Court-Martial Convictions of UCMJ Offenses May Require Lifetime Sex Offender Registration

This post is intended to address general questions regarding sex offender registration following a court-martial conviction for a sex offense. This is a very complicated area of the law, and members facing court-martial for a sex offense need to be advised by his or her attorney regarding sex offender implications in his or her case.

A court-martial conviction based on a sex offense charge under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) may require sex offender registration.  The answer as to whether a court-martial conviction for a UCMJ offense will require sex offender registration is offense-specific.

What is Sex Offender Registration?

Sex offender registration is, generally, the requirement that individuals convicted of sex offenses register with local law enforcement where they reside, work, and/or attend school.

Passed in 2006, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, a federal law, created a new sex offender registration and notification baseline standard for jurisdictions, replacing a patchwork of laws that included the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, the Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act of 1996, and Megan’s Law. 

The Adam Walsh Act tasked the FBI with continuing to maintain the National Sex Offender Registry and established the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website. The law also expanded the number of sex offenses registration jurisdictions must capture to include all federal, state, territory, tribal, military, and certain foreign convictions and established community notification standards.

Note that there are local, state, and national databases (registries) that feed one another information.

What about all of these rules for sex offenders?

In addition to being on a registry that is publicly accessible online, state law often imposes requirements for sex offenders to notify law enforcement regarding their residence, place of employment, and so forth.  State laws often limit where a sex offender can live or work and often prohibit going to places where children frequently congregate, like playgrounds and zoos.  If the offender violates these laws, he or she can be prosecuted for a new crime.

Many states have different levels of sex offenders based on the offender’s criminal history and the offense of conviction.  These levels often correlate to the limitations placed on the offender by state law.

 Is there a national database of all sex offenders?

 The National Sex Offender Public Website is a one-stop-shop for sex offender information across state, tribal, and territory jurisdictions, pulling information from each jurisdiction’s registry website into one search.  Note that it primarily relies on the individual state databases and is not a separate, distinct database.  Also, sex offenders as a result of court-martial conviction are not separately entered into this database; rather, they are entered based on state databases.

Does the Military have its own sex offender database?

 The military does not have its own sex offender database.

What UCMJ offenses require sex offender registration?

 As discussed above, each state generally maintains its own sex offender databases based on its own state laws.  The Adam Walsh Act set the floor as to what convictions require sex offender registration under state law.  States, however, can enact laws that are broader and require more individuals to register than required by federal law.

The following offenses will require sex offender registration, regardless of the state:

  • Article 120, UCMJ – Rape
  • Article 120, UCMJ – Sexual Assault
  • Article 120, UCMJ – Aggravated Sexual Contact
  • Article 120b, UCMJ – Rape of a Child
  • Article 120b, UCMJ – Sexual Assault of a Child
  • Article 120b, UCMJ – Sexual Abuse of the Child (not including communicating indecent language)
  • Article 134, UCMJ – Possessing, Receiving, or Viewing Child Pornography
  • Article 134, UCMJ – Distributing or Producing Child Pornography

The following offenses may require sex offender registration depending on state law and the facts of the offense of conviction.

  • Article 117a, Wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images
  • Article 120, UCMJ – Abusive Sexual Contact
  • Article 120b, UCMJ – Sexual Abuse of the Child (communicating indecent language)
  • Article 120c, UCMJ – Indecent Viewing, Visual Recording, or Broadcasting
  • Article 120c, UCMJ – Forcible Pandering
  • Article 120c, UCMJ – Indecent Exposure
  • Article 134, UCMJ – If as charged include elements that constitute a sex offense

Please note that this list may not be comprehensive or accurate (the law changes regularly) and should not be used as a definitive list of court-martial convictions that require sex offender registration.

If the Military doesn’t have its own sex offender database, how does a court-martial conviction lead to sex offender registration?

 The answer to this question is detailed in Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1325.07.  In short, there is a list of UCMJ offenses that the DoD has determined may require sex offender registration.  It is very broad.  Following the court-martial conviction for an offense on this list, service members normally get confinement in a military brig.  Prior to being released from the brig, the brig will send a letter and a copy of the conviction paperwork to the local law enforcement agency where the member intends to reside.  The brig also informs the member that he or she has a duty to show up at that local enforcement office within a certain number days, the failure of which may constitute a new criminal offense under state law and a violation of supervised release, if applicable.  If the member did not receive confinement, the burden shifts to the investigating law enforcement agency to make the required notifications.  These notifications start the paperwork process for sex offender registration.  Once the member shows up at the local law enforcement office, the registration process begins.  If the member fails to show up, local law enforcement normally opens an investigation to determine the whereabouts of the individual and if the individual failed to register, which is a new crime.

Can a Military member fight sex offender registration based on a court-martial conviction?

 In some cases, yes.  State sex offender laws are based on state criminal laws.  Sometimes there is no direct corollary between state sex crimes to sex crimes under the UCMJ.  In those cases, advocacy explaining why the military offense is not akin to a state sex crime can result in the individual not having to register despite the DoD reporting the conviction to local enforcement.  To fight this requires a lawyer with knowledge of both UCMJ crimes and state crimes and sex offender registration requirements.

Does military sex offender registration last a lifetime?

 As explained, there is no such think as military sex offender registration.  Sex offender registration, including whether it lasts a lifetime, is dependent on state law (except for Indian reservations, which gets complicated).  Whether sex offender registration as a result of a court-martial conviction lasts a lifetime is dependent on the state law, the offense, and the specific facts of the offense.  Some states permit an offender to petition the court to be removed from the registry after a certain amount of time.

 What is the best way to avoid sex offender registration if facing court-martial?

 The best way to avoid sex offender registration if facing court-martial is to not be convicted of a sex offense under the UCMJ.  Sex offender registration is draconian and can last a lifetime.  I consider it a harsher punishment than several years in a brig.  There are three ways to avoid a court-martial sex offense conviction: get the case dismissed for lack of evidence or because of legal issues; negotiate a favorable plea agreement that avoids a conviction for an offense that may require sex offender registration and/or that is on the DoDI list of reportable offenses; or, lastly, go to trial and get acquitted.

Attorney Patrick Korody and the other military law attorneys at Korody Law have decades of experience defending service members facing military sex crimes.  We have successfully navigated hundreds of court-martial cases involving UCMJ sex crimes.  We offer a free case evaluation for court-martial cases.

Korody Law, P.A. 118 W. Adams Street, Suite 500, Jacksonville, FL 32202 - (904) 383-7261

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