Saturday, August 17, 2013

What Are The Laws Restricting Registered Sex Offenders From Traveling Across the U.S. or Internationally?

This is STILL the #1, most viewed post on this blog 2 years later.

As of mid-September 2015 more than 3,300 views for this one post! 

Update May 2, 2014:  

On April 7, 2014 I made a dedicated page on this topic that I will keep current.  

The page is Traveling as a Registered Sex Offender off to the right side of the screen under Directory.  

Thank you for following this blog!  

Mary Devoy

Update September 17, 2013:

Looks like legitimate travel abroad is becoming more impossible.

     Draft law banning pedophiles from entering Russia submitted to Duma, September 16, 2013

     Sex Offenders Will Need To Notify Before Leaving Canada, September 16, 2013

Update September 6, 2013: 

Child molester in Macomb County stopped from leaving country, September 6, 2013
Reese was formally charged Friday in 46th District Court in Southfield with failure to provide the registry of his plan to leave the country at least 21 days prior to departure and failure to provide a copy of his passport. The felonies are punishable by up to four years in prison.

Original Post:
Whether it’s traveling for school, work, family or fun, travel restriction inquires for Registered Sex Offenders seem to be the #1 inquiry that I have encountered over the 5 years of being a volunteer advocate for RSO’s and their family members.

With college students leaving home in the next 2 weeks and Labor Day around the corner I decided to compile all the travel information I have accumulated over the years and turn them into a post. 

I want you all to have a safe vacation and stay compliant at the same time. 

Enjoy your time off!


Traveling While on Probation:

If you are under State or Federal probation Supervision you can not leave the state without prior approval from your Probation Officer and I always recommend you get that approval in writing, not verbally.

If you are NOT on probation and you are legally allowed to leave Virginia for a visit to another state or even another country there is NO Virginia law mandating you must advise your VSP Trooper that you are going out of town for more than 3 days even though back in 2010 some VSP Troopers were telling RSO’s this.

Virginia Law for RSO’s Staying Overnight Elsewhere within the State of Virginia:

As a Virginia RSO you can legally stay at someone else’s (parent, grand-parent, girlfriend, boyfriend, sibling, friend, vacation rental, motel, campground, etc.) place of residence for up to 14 days within a calendar year. Not within a month and not in a row (consecutive days) before you are legally obligated to register their address as a residence to be added to the Virginia Sex Offender Registry.

If an RSO is attending a college or university in Virginia they have 3 days (not 3 business days) to notify the Virginia State Police in person of their enrollment or completion of classes at the school.   

               It does not matter if it’s part-time or full-time classes.  

Note: Many Virginia colleges will not admit an RSO at all and some have revoked admission once they’ve learn of an offender’s status, even Community Colleges have refused admission, it is a shameful over-reaction!
A successful re-entry into society requires stability of home, stability of employment, stability of family and the ability to worship. An education is really required for the first 3. 

The right to education is recognized as a human right and the state is the chief provider of education.
Virginia Law for RSO Notification to Travel outside the State of Virginia:

Virginia law states if an out-of-state RSO comes into Virginia and they are not on business or attending school and if a Virginian leaves the state of Virginia not for business or for school they are not required to update this information with the VSP until the 14th day. Now if the 14th day falls onto a Saturday, Sunday or National holiday you need to advise the VSP earlier than day 14. If you don’t you will be facing a felony!

If your VSP re-registration letter is delivered during the 13 days you are out of state or you’re due to submit your re-registration during that time and you do not, that’s a serious issue. It’s up to you to know when it’s due to arrive and when it’s due to be filed. Failure to do so on time is a felony!

Federal Law for RSO Notification to Travel Internationally:

As of January 2011 any RSO that travels internationally must follow the Final Federal Adam Walsh Act/ SORNA guidelines, Supplemental Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification. Among other matters that they address, the guidelines require that jurisdictions capture certain information about the international travel plans of registered sex offenders 21 days prior to that international travel taking place. The SMART Office subsequently issued SORNA Implementation Document 15—Notice of International Travel—which includes a list of information that must be gathered and describes how jurisdictions can send that information to the National Sex Offender Targeting Center (NSOTC) of the U.S. Marshals Service. In addition, the SMART Office submitted a proposal to the advisory policy board of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Criminal Justice Information Services Division to authorize the development of the automatic notification procedure described in the International Tracking of Sex Offenders Working Group: White Paper. 

Any U.S. RSO is mandated to inform their home state of their international travel plans who then informs the Feds of the upcoming travel plus who the RSO is traveling with, who they will be visiting along the way and every place they will be staying overnight. At any point during the trip a country who knows the RSO will be arriving can turn them back at the airport denying them entry into the country. 
I have heard from many RSO’s and family members over the last 5 years who have been hassled, scrutinized, excessively searched (especially electronic devices) and held for hours by Customs Agents and the TSA while traveling Internationally. You and your traveling party need to expect any possibility, when setting your itinerary, give yourself plenty of time to get from point A to point B as a registered sex offender. You are most likely on a special list of travelers and they know you are coming through and will be giving you more attention than anyone else. 

Some countries have moral-clauses and prohibit the entry of all felons, for example Canada. Someone with a DUI conviction in the U.S. will be turned back at a Canadian airport and not allowed to enter the country. So keep that in mind.

Passports for RSO’s:

As of today (August 17, 2013) there are no passport restrictions for RSO’s. But for the last 5 years there has been a campaign in Congress to change that. The most recent information on current bills to restrict or revoke passports can be found here, here and here.  

As an RSO if you do receive a passport you are required by law to take it to the Virginia State Police for them to make a copy. 

Your Legal Responsibilities as an Out-of-State RSO Traveling in the U.S.:

Rule #1- Ignorance of the law is NOT a defense in ANY state.

Rule #2- As an RSO YOU are responsible to know what the laws are in any state, county or city you travel through or stop in. It takes a lot of time, phone calls and email’s to confirm what you requirements will be but if you don’t do your due diligence ahead of time you will be facing a felony. The Virginia State Police who are responsible for maintaining our registry and answering RSO’s questions about Virginia compliance will NOT help you find the requirements in the other 49 states.

In some states, counties and cities on your 5th day in a rental property, a hotel, a motel, a parent or siblings home, an RV or a tent in a State Park or your college room-mates condo on the beach you are required to go and register. In many states including Florida on your 3rd day you must register and we know for a fact that in Las Vegas within 24 hours if you do not register and give a DNA sample you could be arrested and face a felony. In states like Florida, California, North Carolina and Georgia (just mention a few) the restrictions and requirements are by county and city so traveling from your hotel to the mall could mean you’ve got two separate lists of laws to know.

RSO’s face discrimination and banishment daily by state laws banning them from museums, parks, campgrounds,  lakes, beaches, pools, golf courses, ski resorts, state and county fairs, fast-food establishments with playgrounds, movie theaters, bowling alleys, churches, government buildings and the list goes on and on.  

Plus private establishments like Six Flags and Disneyworld are allowed to discriminate with policies denying admission to all Registered Sex Offenders, no exceptions. As an out-of-state RSO you are required to abide by these laws and polices.

In many states when you register you must pay a fee to do so, it could be significant so find out ahead of time.

Keep in mind that when you register in another state, information that you are not used to being posted on-line in Virginia may be posted in that state. Like ALL your phone numbers, e-mail addresses, instant message identifications, vehicle and license plate information, tattoo and scar descriptions and photos AND in Texas your shoe size (yes, shoe size). And some states keep all registrants on-line forever. Just because you return home to Virginia doesn’t mean your photo and info is removed from that other states registry. In Florida they keep all deceased RSO’s on-line, forever.

If you are enrolled as a student at an out-of-state college or university depending on that states laws you may be subjected to community notification, look into that before you accept a schools offer. 

For questions about Registered Sex Offenders State requirements in Virginia contact The Virginia State Police Sex Offender Hotline, Mon-Fri 9:00-5:00pm at (804) 674-2825.