As part of their punishment, a person convicted of sexual offenses under federal or state laws may be required to register as a sex offender. These offenders must submit their personal information, including their names and addresses, to their local police department files, where they are kept in a database known as a sex offender registry.
Crimes such as rape, child molestation, or other sexual assault require defendants to register their information.
What Criminal Charges Can Result in Becoming a Registered Sex Offender?
You will most likely be required to register as a sex offender if you are convicted of a sex crime. A sex crime involves any form of sexual misconduct, sexual assault, unlawful sexual behavior, or illegal pornography. Sex crimes are among the most serious offenses in the criminal justice system and can carry very serious penalties.
Many states have specific laws detailing what crimes constitute sex offenses and what penalties each offense carries. Some of the more serious sex offenses include:
Some states even include public urination as a sex crime because it is public exposure to a sex organ.
It’s not just state laws that can require defendants to enroll in the registry – federal law also includes charges that can lead a defendant to become a registered sex offender. The state prosecutes the vast majority of sex crimes, but there are times that they will be prosecuted by federal investigators and tried in federal district court. The federal government may exercise its jurisdiction over criminal matters when:
- The state lacks jurisdiction
- The offense occurred on federal property
- The surrounding circumstances make the offense severe and must be punished harshly
- The crime involved other offenses, such as gang activity
- The crime crossed state lines
Do Registered Sex Offenders Lose Any Rights?
Since many sex offenses are classified as felonies (a felony is a crime with a minimum incarceration time of one year), a conviction will result in the defendant being a convicted felon. This means that the defendant may lose certain civil rights, such as:
- The right to carry or own a firearm
- Restrictions or limitations on driving privileges
- Access to federal student loan programs
- They may lose or have limits imposed on their state and federal voting rights
Sex offender registration can also result in restrictions directly related to the nature of the crime, including:
- Restrictions on being in or near school zones
- Restraining orders (which restrict being near the victim of the crime)
- Being able to work in certain places that may be near children
If the crime involved minor children, the court would likely place limitations on the defendant’s ability to interact with children, so jobs that would require contact with minors or homes close to schools would violate the defendant’s conviction punishment.
What Information Do Registered Sex Offenders Have to Provide?
The primary purpose of having a sex offender registry is to make people in the community aware of registered offenders in their neighborhoods or workplaces. This is intended as a means of public protection. That is why the offender must give their address.
If there are any changes to the information, the offender must update the registry. Failure to register and update the registry are usually felonies and are punishable by more than one year in prison.
If required to register, the offender must register with local law enforcement agencies and provide the following information:
- Biographical information (name, date of birth, sex, race, home address, etc.)
- A recent color photograph
- A complete set of fingerprints
- Type of offense committed, age of the victim, and the punishment imposed
- Employment information
- Information on all online aliases used
Most adult sex offenders are required to for life or ten years following discharge from state supervision (incarceration, parole, or community supervision).
It is possible to be removed from the sex offender registry, but it depends on the circumstances of the offense and the laws of the state where you reside. Be sure to check the requirements of your state, which are typically found on your state’s registry.
If convicted of the following offenses, the offender must register as a sex offender for life and cannot be taken off the registry:
- A “sexually violent offense” committed by someone older than 17 years old
- Trafficking of persons
- Compelling a minor to become a prostitute
- Possession or promotion of child pornography
- Indecent exposure to a child
- Unlawful restraint, aggravated kidnapping, or kidnapping, and the victim was younger than 17 years old
- Obscenity and the obscene material visually depict a child engaging in sexually explicit activities.
What Laws Govern Registered Sex Offenders?
Each state has laws governing sex crimes and registered sex offenders. There are also federal laws that govern registries.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2007 (named for the son of John Walsh, who hosted the America’s Most Wanted television show and whose son was kidnapped and killed) has implemented a new requirement for sex offender registrations – sex offenders must be required to register a physical address with the police.
The federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (also called “SORNA”) makes it a crime for people required to register as sex offenders to fail to register or update their registration. Defendants convicted under state statutes can also be prosecuted under this federal statute if they fail to register and travel between states, countries, or onto an Indian reservation. Violations of SORNA can result in fines and up to 10 years in prison.
If I am a Registered Sexual Offender, Can I Get a Job?
Nothing in the law would keep registered sex offenders from holding a job. People who happen to be registered sex offenders cannot be discriminated against for employment purposes. However, if you are a registered sex offender, you may have certain restrictions as part of your sentence that may disqualify you from certain types of employment.
For example, if part of your sentencing and participation in the registry prevents you from being in areas close to daycares and schools or the presence of minor children, that would be important for a potential employer to consider. Certain jobs that would require you to be in direct contact with children may also be restricted to you due to the nature of the restrictions on your record. This would include teachers, librarians, work in schools (such as a janitor), pediatric medical facilities, and any other job where you would be around children.
Should I Talk to a Lawyer For Help with Registered Sex Offender Laws?
If you have questions or concerns about how the registered sex offender laws work, you should consult a criminal lawyer.
An experienced lawyer can answer your questions, explain your options if you are facing criminal charges involving registration as a sex offender, and help you present your best defense if you have to go to court. You can also see a lawyer for counseling to ensure you comply with your registration requirements.