Being convicted of a sex crime can be one of the most life-changing events a person can go through because even after serving time, offenders may still be required to register on the California sex offender database. While not all sex offenses require mandatory registration, many people on the Megans Law website will face harassment and discrimination for years as they follow the requirements set forth by the California legislature under Penal Code section 290 (PC). These laws require sex offenders to report to their local law enforcement agency every year and every time they move. Moving to a new state cannot help you avoid these consequences either, as all states in the US have a Megan’s Law program.
California Sex Offender Registry
Under Penal Code 290 (PC), if you have been convicted of certain sex offenses, you will be required to register with the local law enforcement agency on a regular basis and provide them with your current address. Due to a federal law known as Megans Law, most offenders have their names appear on a public website where anyone can view their name, address, photo, and the specific activity they committed.
While this registry is intended to protect the local community by allowing them to easily search for convicted rapists and child molesters in their area, many vigilantes have used the Megan’s Law website to illegally hunt down and harm or harass convicted sex offenders. Similarly, while it is against the law for landlords to discriminate against those on the Megan’s Law registry, many choose to do so because they feel uncomfortable renting to sex offenders. Most employers are also prohibited from discriminating against those convicted of sex crimes. However, hiring managers who have a duty to protect “persons at risk” (such as children or the elderly) are exempt from this restriction. Even so, many companies break the law and refuse to hire those convicted of sex offense.
When are Sex Offenders Required to Register?
Sex offenders in California are legally required to re-register every time they move to a new address and every year within five working days of your birthday. Moving to a new state requires them to notify both the previous agency they registered with in California and the registration agency for the location they moved to within five days of the move. Transient sex offenders are required to register every 30 days.
Because there are so many rules and restrictions on convicted sex offenders, many offenders will benefit by contacting their lawyer to find out where and when to register.
Failure to Register as a Sex Offender in California
California Penal Code 290 (PC) makes failing to report to a local police or Sheriff’s department on a yearly basis or after a move. Most of those accused of failing to register who were convicted of a misdemeanor-level sex crime will be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. Those originally convicted of a felony or who failed to register in the past will face felony charges, punishable by up to three years imprisonment. As a felony, those with two strikes on their record could even be sentenced to 25 years to life for failing to register, thanks to the state’s three strikes law.
In some extreme cases, offenders labeled “sexually violent predators” may even be institutionalized after their release from prison, sometimes resulting in the person being committed for the rest of their lives. Similarly, those who are convicted of forceful sex crimes against victims under 13 and who have at least one prior conviction must undergo chemical or surgical castration in order to be released on parole. Even then, those who were chemically castrated will still be required to register as sex offenders.
Fortunately, your attorney can help you fight charges related to failure to register as a sex offender in California. Successful defenses to failure to register allegations include being unable to register due to circumstances beyond your control or attempting to register but having your information lost. Not being guilty of the original crime is not a defense for registry violation charges.
California’s Tiered Database
Being registered on the Megan’s Law list was once a lifetime requirement; however, in 2021, the state enacted a new registration system with three tiers of offenses. Non-serious and non-violent felonies and minor misdemeanors are considered Tier one offenses that require registration for 10 years. More serious offenses that fall short of being the highest-level sex crimes fall into the Tier two category, which requires 20 years of registration. The most serious offenses, such as violent rapes, are categorized under Tier three, which require lifetime registration. Even a non-sexual offense done with a sexual motivation may result in mandatory registration. For example, false imprisonment to commit a sex crime can require registration.
A second offense results in someone being added to the next highest tier, and time already spent on the registry does not count towards the waiting period for removal. Aside from resulting in new criminal charges, failure to register will add another year to the waiting period as well, although if you have a good reason for failing to register, you can defend yourself with the help of an attorney.
Those who have already spent the minimum amount of time on the sex offender registration list for a specific offense will not automatically be removed from the registry. Instead, a lawyer can help them file a request with the court, which the local district attorney can challenge. The judge will ultimately have the final discretion on whether or not someone should be removed by balancing the offender’s needs with the safety risk presented to the public. In some rare cases, those subjected to harassment or violence may qualify for removal from the Megan’s law registry.
If you have been accused of a sex crime and have any questions about the registration requirements, or are facing charges related to failure to register under 290 (PC), please call a lawyer. You can schedule a free consultation with attorney Peter M. Liss by calling his offices at (760) 643-4050.