Any attorney will tell you that being convicted of a sex crime can be one of the most life-changing events a person can go through. This is because even after serving time, he or she may still be required to register on the California sex offender database. While not all of these offenses require sex offender registration, many people on the Megan’s Law website will face harassment and discrimination for years as they follow the strict rules set forth by the California legislature. These laws restrict where registered sex offenders can live and also require them to report to the local law enforcement agency every year and every time he or she moves or changes jobs. Moving to a new state cannot help you avoid these consequences either as all states in the US has a Megan’s Law program.
Megan’s Law in California
If you have been convicted certain sex offenses, you will be required to register with the local law enforcement agency on a yearly basis and provide them with your current address and work information. Most offenders will then have their name appear on a public website where anyone can view their name, address, photo and the specific activity they committed. This is due to a federal law known as Megan’s Law that requires each state to put together a list of convicted offenders of sex crimes. 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.
As if the threat of harassment wasn’t bad enough, convicted offenders also have difficulty finding employment and are even barred from certain lines of work. Finding suitable housing can also be problematic as many landlords feel uncomfortable renting to sex offenders.
Even a non-sexual offense done for a sexual motivation may result in mandatory registration on the Megan’s Law website. For example, false imprisonment for the purpose of committing a sex crime can require registration.
While it is possible to be removed from the Megan’s Law site, it is a difficult process and requires a top sex crime defense lawyer.
Failing to Register as a Sex Offender
Failure to report to the local police or Sheriff’s department on a yearly basis is against the law. If the original offense was a misdemeanor and you fail to register, you will be charged with a misdemeanor. If it was a felony and you failed to register, you will be charged with a felony. That means that if you already have two strikes on your record, you could be imprisoned for 25 years to life just 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, in many cases, resulting in the person being committed for the rest of his or her life. 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.
California’s New Tiered Database
It’s worth noting that being registered on the Megan’s Law list was once a lifetime requirement. In 2021 though, the state will be enacting a new registration system with three tiers of offenses. Non-serious and non-violent felonies as well as minor misdemeanors will be characterized as tier one offenses that only require registration for 10 years. More serious offenses that fall short of being the most serious offenses will fall into the tier two category, which will require 20 years of registration. The most serious offenses, such as violent rapes, will be labeled as tier three and will continue to require lifetime registration.
A second offense will result in someone being added to the next highest tier and time already spent on the registry will not count towards this waiting period for removal from the list of registered sex offenders. 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.
Even those who have already spent the minimum amount of time on the Megan’s Law site for a specific type of offense will not automatically be removed from the registry. Instead, a lawyer will need to help them file a request with the court, which can be fought by the local district attorney and the judge will have the discretion on whether or not someone should be removed by balancing the needs of the offender with overall safety risk presented to the public.
If you have been accused of a sex crime, it is absolutely critical you contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Sex offenses are notoriously difficult to fight and require a strong defense from a dedicated representative like Peter M. Liss. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation.
Creative Commons Image by Kevin Spencer