On Jan. 1, 2021, California replaced its antiquated sex offender registry law that mandated lifetime registration for people convicted of any sexual offense. Instead, the state now has a three-tier system requiring registration from 10 years to life.
Under California Penal Code 290, people convicted of certain sex crimes must register within five days of their birthday each year or within five days of moving to a new residence. Depending upon the crime, they must do so for one or two decades or the rest of their life.
Crimes associated with each sex offender tier
The new tiered system dictates the type of crime and the length of time defendants must register. It can also provide some relief for those convicted of lower-level offenses before the tiered system went into effect. Here are examples of the types of crimes associated with each level:
Tier one: Registration is required for at least 10 years for those convicted of misdemeanors and some low-level felonies, such as:
- Sexual battery
- Enticing a child into prostitution
- Sodomy, including some felony cases
- Meeting with a minor for lewd purposes
- Child pornography
- Indecent exposure
Tier two: People convicted of mid-level offenses must register for at least 20 years. These crimes include:
- Rape or sodomy of a victim over 18 incapable of giving legal consent
- Sodomy or oral copulation of a minor under 14 who is more than 10 years younger than the defendant
- Lewd acts with a minor under 14
- Acts of penetration with a foreign object
- Contacting a minor with the intent to commit a felony
Tier three: Those convicted of the most serious sex crimes must register for life. These offenses include:
- Murder committed during the commission of or attempted rape
- Sex trafficking children
- Most felony rape cases, including spousal rape by force
- Aggravated sexual assault of a child
- Felony sexual battery
- Sex acts against a minor 10 or younger
These are just a few examples of crimes requiring registration as a sex offender.
Removal from the registry is not guaranteed
While the three-tier system provides an opportunity for some defendants to remove themselves from the sex offender registry, it doesn’t happen automatically. Tier one and tier two offenders must file a petition to be removed from the registry. Prosecutors can request a hearing to oppose removal, and courts can deny petitions. Offenders must continue to register until their petition is approved.
Sexual offenses carry some of the most severe punishments in California and can result in lifelong consequences. If you are arrested or under investigation for a sex crime, it is crucial to consult a lawyer who understands how these cases are prosecuted, the defenses that may apply to your case and one who has extensive experience minimizing the consequences.