Removing a Sex Crime from a Criminal History

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 What Is a Sex Crime?

Generally speaking, a sex crime is any crime in which the defendant sexually touched the victim in an unwanted or offensive manner. It is imperative to note that states will differ in their exact definitions of what constitutes a sex crime, as well as what constitutes unwanted or offensive. The definition of “unwanted” takes into consideration the victim’s inability to communicate their wishes; as such, sexually touching a drunken person constitutes a sex crime under this definition.

A person who is convicted of a sex crime will have that crime on their criminal record. Additionally, under Megan’s Law, sex offenders must register with their local law enforcement agency. Sex offender laws, such as Megan’s Law, force states to set up registries. These registries are designed and intended to keep track of convicted sex offenders, as well as to report their addresses to the general public. 

Information about sex offenders has always been public; however, as a practical matter, most members of the public would not have known how to access such information. Though all states are required to set up public registries, states are allowed to determine for themselves what information to disclose, as well as how to disseminate that information.

Congress passed Megan’s law in response to the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a young girl by a convicted violent sexual offender. This offender had moved in across the street from Megan, and legislators argued that if the parents were aware of their neighbor’s violent sexual history, they could have taken further precautions in order to adequately protect their daughter. Megan’s Law has also instituted that the local police have the legal right to notify the community if, according to their discretion, the sex offender presents a danger to their community.

In many cases, registered sex offenders are required to submit their personal information to government records. This can include and their name and their address, which are kept in a database often referred to as a sex offender registry. Crimes that will require a defendant to register their information include, but may not be limited to:

  • Rape;
  • Child molestation;
  • Harassment; and
  • Other types of sexual abuse.

Can I Get Sex Crimes Removed from My Record?

Expunction is also known as expungement, and is a process through which persons convicted of certain crimes can get the records of their conviction cleared or sealed. Some form of expunction is generally allowed in most U.S. states. Expunged records are either sealed, or the court dismisses the charging document by setting aside a verdict of guilty. It is important to note that the record is nearly never destroyed, and depending on the state, a dismissal will still appear on the record.

However, there is no constitutional right to have an expunction of a criminal record. When allowed, people who are seeking to get their criminal records expunged must fulfill certain qualifications and adhere to certain conditions. Because expunction is a privilege and not a right, most states only allow for if the defendant can prove that they have effectively been rehabilitated and have reentered into society.

Some states will allow for expungement if a certain amount of time has passed since conviction, and the convicted has already finished serving their sentence. In nearly every state that allows for expunction, what can be cleared or sealed is considerably limited. Generally speaking, expunction is not available for serious or violent crimes.

In terms of sex offender record expungement, felony sex crimes cannot be removed from a record. If the defendent is required to register as a sex offender as a result of a conviction, expunction will not clear away that requirement. Additionally, there is but a considerably slim chance of having a misdemeanor sex crime expunged. Having a sex crime on record makes it nearly impossible to get a job which pays above minimum wage, or to obtain any sort of professional licenses.

Generally speaking, states allow the following to be expunged from a person’s criminal record:

  • Infractions;
  • Violations;
  • Arrests;
  • Citations;
  • Records of county jail time, after a successful probation period;
  • Some specific misdemeanor convictions; and
  • Some nonviolent felonies.

In most states, any sexual activity that involves a minor or a child cannot be expunged under any circumstances. Some examples of this includes, but may not be limited to:

  • Child pornography, whether producing or possessing;
  • Exposing a child to obscene literature; and
  • Luring or enticing a child.

There are a very limited number of sex misdemeanors that may  be expunged. An example of this would be sexual misconduct, or lewd or lascivious behavior. However, this is completely dependent on the circumstances of each individual case.

What About the Sex Offender Registry?

When the sex crime is expunged, sealed, or dismissed, the offender generally must remain registered as a sex offender. Depending on the laws of the state in which they are convicted, they may be required to remain on the sex offender registry long after expungement, or even for life. What this means is that although a convicted sex offender may honestly state on a job application that they never been convicted of a crime if expunged, they will still have the sex offender registry to implicate them.

A defendant may be exonerated on the basis of a false accusation, or through a successful appeal. Differing state laws may entitle an offender to have their name removed from a registry. Those who were lawfully convicted of a sex crime may be eligible for removal, although this heavily depends on the nature of the offense. Some offenses are “non-removable” because they are considered to be sufficiently severe to justify permanent registration.

When an offense is considered to be removable, there are certain guidelines for sex offenders. The offender must file a petition for removal from the registry, which is then filed with a judge. The offender must testify that they are no longer a safety threat, as well as demonstrate that they have completed any required counseling, treatment, or therapy. The judge reviews the information and testimony while evaluating specific factors. Such factors include general criminal history, as well as the severity of the sex crime in question. If the convicted is successful, their name will be removed from the sex offender registry. 

Sex offenders may be classified under the “lowest” class of offender, which would be referred to as “offender.” An “offender” is a person who has committed a sex crime that did not involve violence or any aggrvating factors, such as force or coercion. Offenders may be eligible for removal within ten to fifteen years after their name has been on the registry.

Generally speaking, other classes of offenders are generally eligible for removal. These classifications include sexually violent predators and aggravated offenders. Repeat sex offenders may be required to remain registered for life. 

SORNA requires registration of some juveniles who are aged fourteen and older, if:

  • A court has sentenced the juvenile for delinquency;
  • This delinquency was for an aggravated sexual abuse offense; and
  • The crime is at least as severe as federal law aggravated sexual abuse

Seeking Legal Help

If you have been convicted of a sex crime and would like to clear your criminal record, you will need to work with an experienced and local criminal defense lawyer. An area attorney will be best suited to ensuring you adhere to your state’s specific laws regarding the matter, and will also be aware of eligibility requirements. 

Your attorney can help you begin the process of applying for expungement if you meet your state’s requirements. Further, should any court proceedings be necessary, an experienced attorney will also be able to represent you in court.


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