The State of California was the first state to require sex offenders to register if they have been convicted of a qualifying sex offense. Created in 1947, the registry serves to provide information to law enforcement agencies and California’s Megan’s Law Internet Web Site. If convicted of a sex offense that requires registration, it is vital you understand the rules and guidelines to avoid additional criminal consequences and jail and/or prison time.
You must understand your specific registration requirements. Your attorney or community supervision (probation or parole) officer should be able to provide you information on the specific registration requirements. However, this article will provide you with information in understanding your obligations and recent changes that occurred in 2021 which could impact your registration requirements.
Sex Offender Registration Act - PC 290
In the State of California, it is required that you register each year if you have been convicted of a qualifying sexual offense.
Every person described in subdivision (c), for the period specified in subdivision (d) while residing in California, or while attending school or working in California, as described in Sections 290.002 and 290.01, shall register with the chief of police of the city in which the person is residing, or the sheriff of the county if the person is residing in an unincorporated area or city that has no police department, and, additionally, with the chief of police of a campus of the University of California, the California State University, or community college if the person is residing upon the campus or in any of its facilities, within five working days of coming into, or changing the person’s residence within, any city, county, or city and county, or campus in which the person temporarily resides, and shall register thereafter in accordance with the Act, unless the duty to register is terminated pursuant to Section 290.5 or as otherwise provided by law.
You are required to register with the local law enforcement agency annually, within five (5) working days of your birthday and within five (5) working days of moving. If you are homeless or transient, you must update your address/location with law enforcement every 30 days.
Changes to Sex Offender Registration Pursuant to SB 384
Effective January 1, 2021, SB 384 transitioned California’s lifetime sex offender registration schema to a tier-based schema. SB 384 established three tiers of registration for adult registrants for periods of 10 years, 20 years, and life, and two tiers of registration for juvenile registrants for periods of 5 years and 10 years.
SB 384 allows the registrant to petition the superior court or juvenile court for termination of their sex offender registration requirement on or after their next birthday after July 1, 2021, following the expiration of their mandated minimum registration period. Based on criteria listed in SB 384, the court will either grant or deny the petition.
It is important if you are required to register as a sex offender you contact an attorney to determine how this change in law will affect your current registration process.
Failing to Register
If you are required to register as a sex offender and fail to, the penalties in California can be severe. There is no statute of limitations for failing to register because the government views failure to register as a continuous offense. Therefore, it is vital to know your registration status and maintain your registration annually on/or near your birthday.
Punishment for Failure of Registration
If you fail to register, you could face additional criminal charges and jail/prison time depending on the underlying (original) sex offense. Depending on the offense, you could serve up to one year in jail for a misdemeanor failure to register. However, if your original offense was a felony, you could be charged with a new crime and ordered to serve three years in prison. If the original offense was deemed a “serious or violent” offense, there are additional enhancements which could significantly increase the felony prison sentence.
Removal from Registration Requirement
Based on SB 384, the State will assess sex registrants according to the tier system outlined above. You can request to have your sex registration terminated once you reach the mandatory minimum length.
For example, if you were evaluated to be in tier one with a mandatory minimum 10-year registration, you can petition to have your registration requirement lifted after your birthday once you have completed 10 years.
In this scenario, if you were released in 2015 and required to register under tier one you could petition on your birthday in 2025 to have your registration removed. This is not a guarantee that the court would permit the requirement to be removed from registration, this is the first opportunity to seek removal.
Contacting a qualified attorney who is knowledgeable in sex offender registration can significantly improve your chances and present the evidence necessary to support removal from registration.