In California, people convicted of certain sex crimes must register as sex offenders. Their information is entered into a publicly accessible database. This can create a social stigma that impacts the person’s reputation, relationships, and livelihood.
Depending on the offense the individual was convicted of, they may be required to register as a sex offender for 10 or 20 years or life. A person can only be removed from the registry if they have completed the minimum number of years for their tier (except for those with a lifetime registration requirement).
Not registering as a sex offender is a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the level of charge the person was initially convicted of or whether they previously failed to register.
When Must a Person Register as a Sex Offender?
California’s sex offender registration requirement is triggered when an individual is convicted of specific sex crimes.
These offenses include, but are not limited to:
- Murder while committing or attempting to commit rape, unlawful copulation, lewd or lascivious acts with a minor, or forcible penetration with a foreign object
- Rape committed by two individuals
- Enticing a minor into a brothel or encouraging them to engage in sexual intercourse with anyone else
- Persuading or enticing someone to become a prostitute
- Aggravated sexual assault with a child
- Communicating with a minor with intent to commit a sex crime
- Arranging a meeting with a child to engage in sexual conduct
- Continuous sexual abuse of a minor
- Engaging in sexual acts with a minor
- Possessing child pornography
- Exchanging or transferring child pornography
- Distributing child pornography
- Sending harmful or obscene material to a child for sexual purposes
The registration requirement begins after the individual is released from incarceration or placed on probation. They have 5 business days to provide the city police department or county sheriff with their information.
Registration consists of providing the local law enforcement agency with the registrant’s:
- Proof of residence,
- Vehicle license plate number,
- Internet identifiers (e.g., email address, social media profiles, or other online communication information), and
- Name and address of employer.
Generally, individuals required to register must do so once a year within 5 days before or after their birthday. However, if the person is homeless, they must register every 30 days.
Individuals designated as sexually violent predators must register every 90 days. A sexually violent predator is a person convicted of a sex crime involving force or violence, and they may likely engage in sexually violent conduct in the future.
A registered sex offender must update their information with a local law enforcement agency within 5 days of any of the following:
- They change their name
- They change their address
- They become homeless
Does CA’s Sex Offender Registration Requirement Apply to Out-of-Staters?
A person required to register in a state other than California must also register here. They must do so if they plan on living or working here for more than 14 days or a total of 30 days. Additionally, any out-of-state registered sex offender must register here if enrolled in a California school.
What Are California’s Sex Offender Tiers?
California separates registered sex offenders into tiers based on the severity of the crime they were convicted of. The tier they are in determines how long they must register.
In a way, California has four sex offender registration tiers, with the fourth being a placeholder until the Department of Justice determines the person’s actual category.
Below are the sex offender tiers in CA:
- Tier one: A person will be classed in this category if they committed a misdemeanor or a non-serious or non-violent felony sex offense. The individual must register for a minimum of 10 years.
- Tier two: Individuals are designated tier two sex offenders if they were convicted of a mid-level sex crime, such as incest or rape against a person who can’t resist because of a mental disorder or a physical or developmental disability. A person may also be placed in this classification if convicted of a second or subsequent violation of annoying or molesting a child. Tier two sex offenders must register for a minimum of 20 years.
- Tier three: This category is reserved for individuals convicted of the most severe sex crimes. Some of the reasons a person may be designated a tier three sex offender include that they:
- Were convicted of a sex offense and then convicted of another violent felony sex crime in a separate case;
- Were committed as a sexually violent predator;
- Were convicted of crimes such as kidnapping with intent to commit a specific sex offense, assault with intent to commit a sex crime, pimping a minor, pandering a minor, procuring a child for lewd or lascivious acts, aggravated sexual assault of a child, continuous sexual abuse of a child, sexual intercourse with a child 10 years of age or younger, or using force to solicit another person to commit a sex crime.
Tier three sex offenders must register for life.
- Tier to-be-determined: This category is reserved for individuals the Department of Justice cannot immediately determine a specific tier for. While the person is awaiting permanent placement in a tier, they must register as the law requires until their category is decided. The DOJ should ascertain the exact tier within 24 months. The individual will receive credit for the time they registered while they were in the TBD tier.
What Happens If a Person Doesn’t Register as a Sex Offender?
An individual designated a registered sex offender must register as frequently as required for the amount of time specified. If the person fails to register, a warrant may be issued for their arrest, and they may be charged with a crime.
The conviction penalties for failing to register are tied to the sex offense the person was convicted of. For instance, if the crime were a misdemeanor, failing to register is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail. If the crime were a felony or the individual has a prior conviction for failing to register as a sex offender, the current violation is a felony punishable by 16 months or 2 or 3 years in prison.
Can a Person Be Removed from the Sex Offender Registry?
A person can be removed from the sex offender registry, but removal is not automatic. They must apply for relief after waiting the minimum amount of time required for the tier they’re in. For instance, a tier one sex offender cannot apply to be removed until after 10 years have passed.
If an individual is a tier three sex offender, they cannot be removed from the registry. They must register for life.
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