A sex offender registry is a list of individuals who have been convicted of crimes that are sexual in nature, such as sexual assault. Once convicted, these individuals may be referred to as sex offenders. Thus, they will be required to register with their local sex offender database.

The purpose of these systems is to put the general public on notice of their crimes, as well as to encourage citizens to remain more vigilant around them. This is especially true when a sex offender has been convicted of sexual crimes relating to minors. It also provides law enforcement direct access to any of their information in the event that they commit a similar offense again.

In general, every state has some form of a sex offender system. Depending on the state, and sometimes even the rules of a specific jurisdiction, the offender will typically be required to register by providing the following information:

  • Their name and any nicknames;
  • Their current address;
  • Their date of birth;
  • A current photograph;
  • Any offenses they were convicted of;
  • The punishment that they received (e.g., jail time or fines, and whether or not they have completed these punishments);
  • Physical descriptions of their appearance, including any identifying marks like scars or tattoos; and
  • Various other details that are required according to the laws of the state or jurisdiction supervising the registration system.

There is also a database for national purposes, but it may not be viewed by any members of the public. The national database is strictly used by law enforcement personnel and is maintained by the FBI. This enables law enforcement to have quick access to the offender’s files in case of an emergency and can alert them when a sex offender moves to another state. 

Additionally, some jurisdictions waive the offender’s registration requirements if they are a juvenile defendant. In contrast, other states insist on having both adults and juveniles to register if they have been convicted of a sexual crime.

Finally, failure to register or to provide updates about any personal information that has changed, can have serious consequences, such as having to pay heavy fines or going to jail.

Therefore, if you have been convicted of such an offense, it is important to remember to register with your state and that your record reflects your current personal information. If you have any questions with this process, you should contact an attorney for further legal guidance. 

What Crimes Get You On the Sex Offender Registry?

As discussed above, when someone commits a certain crime relating to sex, they may be required to register as a sex offender at their local registry. Both the type and severity of the crime committed can contribute to the amount of time that a convicted individual must be registered. 

In particular, some crimes that may lead to an individual being added to the database include the following:

  • Sexual abuse or sexual assault, especially if the victim is a child or minor; 
  • Rape or statutory rape;
  • Prostitution;
  • Indecent exposure; and 
  • Child pornography. 

Aside from the type or severity of the crime, there are other factors that may dictate how long a person has to be registered for, such as the laws of a particular state, the age of the defendant, or if the conviction gets reversed. 

Generally speaking, however, most sex crime convictions will typically require the individual to be registered for life. 

One important thing to note is that the laws relating to specific crimes, such as sexual assault and rape, have recently been updated to apply to both females and males alike. Also, unlike what was permitted by prior laws, marriage can no longer serve as a defense against a rape claim. 

What is the Difference Between the State and Federal Sex Offender Registry?

As previously mentioned, the federal sex offender registry is strictly for law enforcement purposes. It is primarily managed by the FBI and can only be accessed by various levels of law enforcement personnel and agencies that handle these types of matters. The general public does not have access to this particular database. 

This also means that an offender will not have to register under both their state and the federal registry since law enforcement maintains and updates those records. 

Instead, an offender will have to register and update personal information according to their state’s guidelines for sex offender registration. Unlike the federal sex offender registry, the public does have access to state databases.

Also, while there may be internal criteria for the records kept by the federal sex offender registry, states provide definitive parameters for offenders to follow. For example, most states do not allow a registered sex offender to live a certain amount of distance from a school, even if their crime did not involve a minor. The distance will vary by state due to the different state statutes.

States also have different tiers or levels of how to classify sexual offenses. These tiers sometimes determine the bare minimum of how long a person has to be registered, if not permanently. For example, in New York State, a tier 1 offense will result in a registration period of 20 years. In contrast, a tier 2 or 3 offense, will most likely impose registration for life. 

How Do You Petition for Removal from the Sex Offender Registry?

The first step towards removal involves determining whether or not the offense is one that can be removed, and if so, whether or not the offender is in fact eligible for removal. These questions can both be answered by reviewing the relevant laws of the state.

If the crime is one that can be removed and the offender is eligible, then they will have to file a petition for removal with the court. Along with the petition, an offender also must include documentation that shows they are no longer a threat to the public, such as certificates stating that they attended required counseling sessions or have received treatments.

After the petition is filed, the court will then review it to decide whether or not they should grant the request for removal. The court may also consider the offender’s criminal history, the severity of the sexual crime, and if the offense involved violence.

If the petition gets denied, then the offender will have to wait a certain period of time before filing a new request for removal.

Lastly, even if a person is removed from the database, the crime will still appear on their criminal record. 

Can I Expunge a Sex Crime From My Criminal History?

It is extremely difficult to have a sex-related crime expunged or removed from your criminal record. This record will affect an offender’s ability to be hired or to apply for professional licenses. 

If the crime involved any kind of sexual activity with a child or minor, it can never be expunged. Crimes that involve a felony or violent act can generally not be removed either. If the crime was non-violent and was tried as a misdemeanor, there may be a slight possibility to have it removed. The length of time that a person is registered may also be taken into account. 

Also, some states (e.g., Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, etc.) strictly prohibit all sex crime convictions from being eligible for expungement. 

Do I Need a Lawyer to Get Off the Sex Offender Registry?

Being convicted of a sexual criminal offense is a very serious matter. Unless your conviction was reversed or you committed a minor infraction, the path to removal or expungement is a challenging one. Therefore, you should strongly consider hiring a qualified criminal attorney in your area for assistance. 

An experienced criminal attorney will be able to determine whether or not you are eligible for removal, and if so, will be able to walk you through the process step-by-step. They also can help you appeal a denied decision after a certain amount of time has passed.