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The Act also sets the frequency with which a former offender must update registry information: Tier I sex offenders must do so every year; Tier II sex offenders must do so every six months; and Tier III offenders must do so every three months.
While a few states have had sex offender registries since the 1940s, most states began creating registries in the 1990s.
One of the goals of the Act was to create more uniformity among state registration schemes, to avoid some of the confusion as to registration requirements when registrants moved to different states.
However, since the Act does not limit the authority of states to go beyond federal law (see below), uniformity will still be elusive.
The law authorized, but did not require, law enforcement officials to release to the public information on a registered sex offender when, in their discretion, they determined public notification about the registered sex offenders presence in the community was necessary to protect public safety. Ten years later, with the Adam Walsh Act of 2006, Congress again passed legislation increasing the categories of people that states were required to register as sex offenders and for how long they would have to do so.
The Act also authorized a national registry that would incorporate the information from every state registry.