In an effort to assist law enforcement and help Montanans protect themselves and their children.
The legislature authorized a registry that tracks the whereabouts of sexual and violent offenders. Since it was initiated in 1989,
legislators have expanded and strengthened the laws that govern the registry.
The Montana Legislature first enacted a registration law for sexual offenders:
- Central Registry - created a registry, maintained by the Department of Corrections
- Qualifying Offenses - required that only sexual offenders register, for a period of 10 years
- Public Information - no provision making any registration information public
- Penalty - penalty for failing to register was a misdemeanor .
Lawmakers strengthened the registration statute, which became known as the "Sexual or Violent Offender Registration Act":
This redefined the offenses requiring registration. Montana became one of the few states to register violent offenders in addition to sexual offenders:
Qualifying Offenses - required certain violent offenders to register. Registrants also were:
- required to sign a statement indicating they were aware of their registration duties and to provide any other information required by the Department of Corrections
- fingerprinted and photographed for registration purposes
Length of Registration - duration of registration was changed to life, with the option to petition the district court for relief from registration after 10 years. A court could grant relief only if the offender met a two-part test:
- the offender had remained law-abiding for 10 years
- no public safety reasons existed for continued registration
The Montana Legislature moved the Sexual or Violent Offender Registration Program from the Department of Corrections to the Department of Justice and made the following changes:
Retroactive Applicability Clause - required registration of:
- sexual offenders who were sentenced, in the custody or under the supervision of the Department of Corrections on or after July 1, 1989
- violent offenders who were sentenced, in the custody or under the supervision of the Department of Corrections on or after October 1, 1995
Tier Levels - tier levels were assigned to sexual offenders by the sentencing court based on the likelihood that they would commit additional offenses
Public Information - the amount of information that could be released to the public varied according to the tier level assigned to the sexual offender. Law enforcement agencies could release any offender information relevant to the public if risk to the safety of the community was an issue.
Address Verification - required the Department of Justice to send annual address-verification letters to all registered offenders and quarterly letters to level 3, high-risk sexual offenders
The Legislature again modified the statute:
Public Information - increased the information available to the public to include the name and address of any registered offender in Montana
Tier Levels - gave the Department of Corrections the authority to assign tier levels to registered sexual offenders being released from confinement if the registrant had not been given a tier level at the time of his or her sentence
Legislative changes included:Community Education - required that the Department of Justice develop a statewide community education curriculum regarding the release of sexual or violent offenders into a community
Special Legislature session:A Special Legislative Session provided that an offender must register within 10 days of entering a Montana county for the purpose of setting up a temporary home for 10 days or more, or residing there for a total of more than 30 days in a calendar year.
The Legislature modified the statute:Qualifying Offenses - made operating an unlawful clandestine laboratory a qualifying violent offense
The Legislature amended the statute so that out-of-state and federal sexual offenders who move to Montana are treated in the same manner as Montana offenders. These changes included:
- requiring registration of out-of-state or federal offenders designated as sexual offenders by the laws of another state or the federal government
- allowing Montana to recognize risk level designations given by another state or the federal government and to post that information accordingly
- clarifying that, after 10 years, violent offenders may petition the sentencing court or the district court for the judicial district in which they reside for an order relieving them of the duty to register
The Legislature made several changes to the Sexual or Violent Offender Registry to increase offender monitoring. These changes included:
- posting photos of all sexual offenders
- requiring in-person verification of registration information and more frequent photographs of offenders
- amending the definition of “sexually violent predator” to include offenders who commit a sex offense against a victim 12 years of age or younger
- requiring Level 2 sexual offenders to verify their residence every 180 days
- creating registration provisions for transient sexual offenders
- adding soliciting or promoting prostitution of a child 12 years of age or younger as qualifying sexual offenses, and kidnapping and aggravated kidnapping of an adult as qualifying violent offenses
- requiring all juvenile sexual offenders to register unless the court relieves them of that duty
In September, the Sexual or Violent Offender Registry search capability was expanded to include a mapping feature:Allows users to enter a specific street address and city, and the search then uses Google Maps (updated in 2013 to BING maps) to generate a map showing the location of offenders within a certain radius of that address. The mapping capability was required by the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006
SVOR Web Application was significantly upgraded and re-built from the ground up, replacing the current Web application:
In October, the MT Department of Justice (DOJ) rolled-out an entirely new version of the Sexual or Violent Offender Registry Web search and application framework. The new version was built in-house by MT DOJ and has the following feature/enhancements.
- SVOR Web presence becomes a separate website - not just a simple web search application.
- At the heart of the new website is the mapping application which searches and displays the offender data and locations.
- Compared with the previous design and technology MT DOJ will save 60% in annual maintenance and operations costs.
- Mobile or Responsive design - this makes the SVOR Web site and map search more user-friendly when accessed from a mobile device.