Ask any sex crimes attorney in Arizona. The Adam Walsh Act, enacted in 2006, is the most complex, progressive and punitive sex offender law ever enacted. It was done in response to the public outcry as well as political outcry over sexual offenders and the threat they present to society. The law was grounded in conception by several noteworthy child sexual homicides, and in fact, names a handful of these children. In essence, the statute enhances penalties for already existing sexual federal offenses as well as creates new federal sexual offenses that the client of a sex crimes attorney may be charged with.
Most importantly, the act establishes the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act, creating a national registry of sexual offenders that law enforcement officers may use to access information about sexual offenders in order to efficiently track them throughout the country. The law delineates risk levels for community registration and notification on a 3 tiered system that is offense based rather than risk based.
Essentially, the AWA requires stricter juvenile sexual offender notification elements that can conflict with the rehabilitative process of the client of a sex crimes attorney. The law also restricts the ability of a sex crimes attorney to access evidence regarding computer pornography crimes, which can affect their ability to prepare for trial.
AWA Sexual Offender Civil Commitment Statute
The AWA also created the Jimmy Ryce Civil Commitment Program that established civil commitment procedures for federal sexual offenders. This may be in fact the most castigating feature of the law, considering the reality of life commitment for some sexual offenders. The commitment clause had 2 primary objectives: assist funding for states that don’t have such legislation, and mandate the civil commitment of sexually dangerous federal offenders.
About 20 states entertain civil commitment statutes to confine sexually violent predators. Many states reject such legislation, primarily for funding reasons. The AWA provides grants for states to meet these financial needs.
The AWA managed to leave many areas unresolved, much to the frustration of many a sex crimes attorney in Arizona. It failed to establish a standard or burden of proof for risk to reoffend and does not permit a jury trial. The law does not conclude whether the respondent has the right to remain silent, nor does it compel him to participate in a court ordered examination. It also does not provide for a provision that compromises the possibility that disclosures about sex offending behaviors during treatment will not be used against the offender by the government to procure more commitment.
The AWA also fails to resolve discovery procedures related to the client of a sex crimes lawyer.
Most civil statutes include a “likely to reoffend” component. The AWA fails to have such a distinction. Instead, the law incorporates a volitional mandate. The definition only calls for a “serious difficulty restraining from sexually violent conduct or sexual molestation if released.”
The AWA is a harsh law that can impose significant confinements on the client of a sex crimes lawyer in Arizona. Most importantly, it presents roadblocks in the road to rehabilitation. Punishment becomes the solution while rehabilitation becomes an impossibility.
About the Author
David Michael Cantor is an AV rated (the highest possible rating) lawyer and a Certified Criminal Law Specialist per the Arizona Board of Legal Specialization. For more information about an Arizona sex crimes attorney, visit our site.