The effects of sex offender registration and notification on judicial decisions

Elizabeth J. Letourneau, Jill S. Levenson, Dipankar Bandyopadhyay, Kevin S. Armstrong, Debajyoti Sinha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This study examined whether South Carolina's sex offender registration and notification (SORN) policy was associated with changes in judicial decision making concerning adult sex crime cases. Outcomes pertained to reduced charges (e.g., sex to nonsex crimes) and final case dispositions. Statewide crime data from 1990 to 2004 corresponded with three time periods of interest: the 5 years immediately preceding enactment of SORN (Year Group 1; 1990-1994), the first 4 years of SORN implementation (Year Group 2; 1995-1998), and the subsequent 6 years of SORN implementation, which included Internet notification (Year Group 3; 1999-2004). Univariate and generalized estimating equations methods were used to model patterns of charging and disposition decisions with respect to year groups. Results indicated that defendants were more likely to have charges reduced from sex to nonsex crimes over time, with a 9% predicted probability of reduced charges in Year Group 1, a 15% predicted probability in Year Group 2 (corresponding with initial implementation of SORN), and a 19% predicted probability in Year Group 3 (corresponding with Internet notification). Results also indicated that the probability of a guilty disposition changed at each year group, with a predicted probability in Year Group 1 of 55%, increasing to 65% in Year Group 2, and then declining to 60% in Year Group 3. This final decline was more pronounced when pleaded cases were removed from analyses. South Carolina's SORN policy shares several characteristics with the federal Adam Walsh Act (AWA). Thus, both state and national policy implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-317
Number of pages23
JournalCriminal Justice Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 9 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Public notification
  • Sex offender registration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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