In 1994, the federal government passed the Sexual Offender Act, requiring states to set up a viewable Internet registry for convicted sexual offenders. State registration laws vary with state penal systems such as the laws. The laws pertain to the access of information about the sex offenders for the general public, the time period the offender has to report after conviction or moving to another state, how long the offender must comply with the requirements and whether they can petition to remove their names. Some examples are on the accessibility of information are:
- California – Must comply with requirements for life, regardless of seriousness. 25% of registered sex offenders are not shown on the public Internet database, because the cases are less serious. Among the remaining 25%, there are 3 categories, with the “home address” listed for the most predatory crimes, and “conditional home address” and “zip code” for less serious crimes.
- Maine – 24 hour requirement after moving to notify law enforcement of your relocation and new address. Their registry also does not contain information on all individuals that have been convicted of sex crimes. Information is only provided for those individuals that are required to register pursuant to their state code.
- Kansas – Offenders who are homeless must report to local law enforcement every three days. In Indiana, every seven days. They provide public access to information about persons who have been convicted of certain sex, violent and drug offenses but not those who committed their offense prior to April 14, 1994.
- Utah – The state does not maintain an online registry but there are community organizations that do post individual offender information.
- Missouri – Does maintain a registry of all sex offenders who register unless they are no longer required to register.
A violent sexual predator or a felony sex offender (in some states) must check in every 90 days, and a homeless sex offender every 30 days. If a sex offender fails to check in, the website database will indicate that the person is in violation. A change of address must be reported. A sex offender must also report any schools attended. Certain states allow juvenile sex offenders to be kept off of the registry provided they complete certain probation programs, camps, and education.
Can an Offender Petition the Court to Remove their Name From the Registry?
States vary on their laws regarding petitioning and the legal fees associated with the petition. The offenders must look at their state’s law and it is advisable to get assistance from an attorney to ensure compliance with the law. Usually sex offenders who have been convicted of minor misdemeanors may apply to have their information excluded from the website. Misdemeanors under this category may include such acts as misdemeanor child molestation and acts not involving penetration. However, if excluded, sex offenders must still be registered and update their information. Example include:
- Utah: Many offenders are removed from the registry after just 10 years.
- Colorado – After filing a petition, an offender file a petition with the court and go to their hearing, where a judge will make a ruling.
- New York – An offender petitions a judge who defers to a governor appointed 5 person Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders for a recommendation. After the recommendation is made, the judge makes a final ruling.
- Missouri – If you’re under 21 and convicted of having consensual sex with someone older than 14 the offender can petition for removal after two years. But if the offender is 21 or older and convicted of having sex with a 16-year-old the can petition only after 10 years. Most other sex crimes carry lifetime registration requirements
Note that 15 states have no process for petitioning.
How Long After the Conviction Must an Offender Register?
In California, sex offenders are required to register for the first time while serving their prison sentence. A small fee is imposed, and failure to pay this fee will result in additional jail time. After their release from prison, the California Department of Justice (DOJ) is notified. A misdemeanor sex offender is required to update their information every year.
A sex offender can simply walk into the local police station nearest their home to do so. However, they must register with the sheriff in the county where they live. Therefore, it is considered a violation if they live in one county and register in another. This has been a problem for offenders in rural areas where the county lines are not so clear. For example in many counties in North Carolina, where people tend to reside in mobile homes, some offenders have inadvertently crossed county lines. One such consequence is potentially getting an additional charge that may put them into “habitual offender” status, which carries a life sentence.
Finally, minimum registration time can be 10 to 25 years, mandatory lifetime, or, in some states, lifetime registration only for aggravated or repeat offenses. Failure to register or update information can be a felony punishable by more than a year in prison (unless it puts you in habitual offender or three strike status).
Should I Contact an Attorney?
As explained above sexual offender registration laws vary with each state. The consequences are high if an offender violates the registry laws and will result in jail time, and in some cases life in prison. If you are convicted of a sex crime it is imperative that you consult a criminal defense attorney who will assist you in complying with the laws of your state.