As required by the California Department of Justice, a sex offender must register their information with their city or town of residence, upon release from prison, jail, hospital, or probation. Within five days of release, the offender must file the information with the local law enforcement. An annual re-registration within 5 days of the registrant’s birthday each year, is required by the state and for some individuals it has to be updated more often if moving to a different area.
There are several possible avenues for the offenders to be removed from the list. In addition, there are a couple categories for posting information. Some offenders have to supply their exact house address while others only have to supply the zip code. There are also applications for certain exclusions that offenders can fill out.
Passed by courts in 1996, California’s Megan’s Law is also known as penal code 290.46. It was created to inform communities about registered sex offenders in their area. The law is named after Megan Kanka who was a 7 year old girl that was raped and killed by a child molester who lived across the street from the family. Her parents worked hard to get a law in place that would give families a fighting chance against sex offenders. Megan’s Law has since spread through all 50 states in some form.
Megan’s List is a document that is accessible to the public with names of sex offenders in their area. It is a compilation of names and addresses and in some cases pictures of the individuals. In California, it is not a complete list of all the sex offenders, just a select group.
California’s latest amendment to the sex offender laws is called SB-384. This law was introduced in 2017 and went into effect in January 2021. This revision has created a tier system of sex offenders.
· Tier One contains the most names and is composed of adults who have been charged with misdemeanors. The California registry contains roughly 65,000 names in this tier. Individuals can request to be removed from the registry 10 years after their release from jail or prison.
· Tier Two has roughly 24,000 names on the registry in California. This tier has primarily individuals convicted of sex crimes involving a minor. They can request removal after 20 years of their release.
· Tier Three is a list of the most egregious offenders. The offenders on this list have been convicted of sex crimes against children, rape, and trafficking. There are about 8,000 names in this tier level in California. Individuals in this tier will remain on the registry for life.
The hope for this Senate Bill 384 is that law enforcement will have more time to focus on serious offenders. Currently, it is estimated that police officers that monitor individuals spend more than 60% of their time completing paperwork or monitoring low-risk offenders every single year. This tier system will help them to stay focused on more serious offenders in communities. The serious offenders are at the highest risk of repeat offenses and need the most monitoring.
It is not a guarantee that a sex offender will qualify for removal from the list or database. The law requires an application or request process to pass through the system at the time that the term limit is ending. The original application is to request a certificate of rehabilitation. If approved, this shows that the offender has been on their best behavior with no sequential offenses and a clean behavior while serving any time. Offenders must also check off certain criteria before applying. The offender must have been a California resident for five years minimum and it must be at least five years since the offender first registered. If this certificate of rehabilitation is approved, it is automatically sent to the governor as a request for a pardon. Once a pardon is received, the individual can then refrain from registering their name with local law enforcement.
One major discrepancy to remember is the severity of the crime. If the crime was ruled as a misdemeanor, the offender can try to have it expunged and their name can be removed (after serious review) from the registry. However, if the crime was more serious and the courts found that it was a felony, the offender can never be removed from the registry of sex offenders for their lifetime. This is to protect citizens and also keep law enforcement on the right track by following the more serious offenders.
A good defense attorney can be hired to help with this process when the time arrives. They will know the process and laws well and can walk you through the process. A little bit of relief from punishment is now possible for sex offenders in California through this new SB-384.